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PZ Myers, Pamela Gay, and atheistic skeptic organizations PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by D.J. Grothe   

I love PZ Myers and his blog Pharyngula — a mix of science education and social commentary from an atheistic perspective — way more than some of my more temperate and low-key friends would approve. He is for me what I imagine Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck is for fiscal, religious or cultural conservatives. Except that PZ is reasonable and on the right side of the issues, unlike Limbaugh and Beck. (Of course, fans of Limbaugh or Beck must think the same thing of them.) PZ Myers is one of the two or three best polemicists that people of my worldview have to rally around. I cheer when he sticks it to my cultural competitors. I enjoy reading his uncompromising stance. I like that he is direct and funny and pulls no punches, and convince myself sometimes that this might allow other skeptics and atheists to take different, more diplomatic approaches when addressing religious or paranormal beliefs.

 

That others take different approaches is something PZ doesn't seem to like.

 

I invited Pamela Gay, the popular astronomy podcaster and public science educator, to be a speaker at the Amazing Meeting 8 this year. She is one of a number of theist skeptics on the program, despite some hullabaloo that the Amazing Meeting has been turned into an atheist conference (I guess this is because both Randi and I might be considered raging atheists; at least no one is yet wringing their hands that it has been turned into a gay conference).

 

I really like Pamela Gay, and enjoy her company. I appreciate her great work in science education and science popularization, and consider her a fellow skeptic, an ally in the fight to advance critical thinking in the world. I have lectured on critical thinking and legerdemain for a college class she teaches. I have seen her inspire and charm at Dragon*Con.

 

That she is a theist of some sort is beside the point for me. And PZ seems to agree. He calls her a "credible skeptic," even if other bloggers may not think so. In a recent blog post titled "Should skeptic organizations be atheist organizations?," PZ lists "eminently reasonable rationales for not pressuring skeptical organizations to join ranks with and become inseparable from atheist groups." He also lists what he thinks are some bad reasons that skeptic organizations shouldn't be identical to atheist organizations, like the desire not to offend religious folks who are allies in advancing skepticism and critical thinking, as long as it doesn't undermine theism. Because he doesn't see the need for skeptics organizations to become atheist organization, he doesn't seem to object to Pamela Gay being included in the pantheon of skeptics.

 

Unlike some skeptic-atheists out there, I do not believe that skepticism is a subset of atheism. I believe, and I wonder why it isn't obvious to everyone, that atheism is a subset of skepticism. Skepticism, among other things, is simply a method of inquiry, an approach to knowledge claims. I have recently argued in a speech what skepticism is and what it is not. Over the years, I have met many avowed atheists whom I would not consider to be credible skeptics, who are not very skeptical of the sorts of claims James Randi would call "woo woo." Sure, they lack belief in God, but believe in the New Age, or the power of crystals, or other paranormal or supernatural folderol. Yes, many skeptics are atheists and vise versa. But atheism is skepticism about only one sort of supernatural claim, the God claim. And in my view, atheism is not enough to make you a credible skeptic.

 

As an equal opportunity skeptic, I personally try to apply my skepticism to every sort of claim — to the Holy Ghost, and to ghosts in general. I think that if you consistently apply skepticism to all areas of your life, you will necessarily abandon many of the basic beliefs of the majority of people around you. Theism is just one belief you may abandon. But I don't think abandoning theism is a necessary result of skepticism, if only because I don't think every skeptic is always going to be completely consistent in her skepticism.

 

(Some may consider me inconsistent in my skepticism, by the way — for instance, I am persuaded by some of the arguments made by so-called transhumanists, and am cautiously optimistic about the emerging science of human life-extension; some of my fellow skeptics consider me completely gullible in this regard as a result.)

 

Even though PZ considers Pamela Gay a credible skeptic (that is, despite her theism), he took issue with her recent blog post in which she recounted and justified students giving religious explanations for how the universe would end on an astronomy exam. Because of this, and also because not all credible skeptics are admitted atheists, and because this seems to be something that perplexes many of us (but not PZ or me, it seems), I thought I'd ask Pamela Gay herself to comment on a few related questions.

 

SWIFT: How can you be a skeptic and a theist at the same time?

 

Pamela Gay: To me, skepticism applies to testable parts of my life. Through science, I can test ideas and make predictions. As a skeptical thinker, when I'm confronted with data I have to be willing to change my ideas about reality, and if the predictive powers of science fail me, I have to admit my science is wrong. A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable. I can make no testable predictions using religion, but instead find myself faced with having to make an opinion-based judgement. I have made the choice to believe. I admit I have doubts - I am not so strong a person as to say my faith is complete and that in the dark of night I don't worry that I'm wrong. But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in a God.

 

 

SWIFT: Do you think there are domains of belief that should be off-limits to skepticism?

 

Pamela Gay: Someone who compartmentalizes their life - placing religion in one box and skepticism in another - is tearing themselves apart. The characteristics that define us are built on a foundation of personal philosophies, work ethics, and morals that are reflected in our actions. This means a skeptic must find a way to integrate their way of approaching reality with their belief or atheism. It doesn't mean skepticism can decide all the answers. To me, and I know many will disagree with me on this, the natural outcome in skepticism is acknowledging doubt. I am haunted with my uncertainty in God and envy theologians like CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias who claim pure belief. I can't imagine a skeptical atheist not having the same moments of "But... what if?"


Within the skeptics community (and the world at large!) discussion is healthy. I believe everyone should live an examined life and be challenged to consider why they believe what they believe. I've been kicked out of Christian groups for challenging people's beliefs. (Dinosaurs did not co-exist with humans, and Neanderthals are not just humans who lived hundreds of years and grew new bone structures in their old age. If you believe those things, I will shred your understanding of geology, one sedimentary layer at a time.) At the same time, while people need challenged to live examined lives, I also respect that some people may not want to share with everyone their personal reasons for believing or not believing, and it is sometimes enough for someone to say, "Yes, examined that. New topic please."

 

SWIFT: What is more important to you: proving a student wrong when you think she is wrong, or helping a student see other viewpoints even if she doesn't adopt them?

 

Pamela Gay: I don't think this question has a black or white answer. If a student thinks moon phases are caused by the moon passing through the Earth's shadow (a common misconception), I need to remove the incorrect idea completely and replace it with our actual understanding of how the solar system works. If they are instead certain that the universe will end as is described in revelations, I need to get them to set that aside, and get them to understand how physics and astronomy say our universe will end, and get them to be able to hold onto both ideas at once. In this case, it shouldn't be a fight. Think of it this way - I may know with certainty that the ground hog in my backyard will eat any strawberries that grow in the garden, but I can know from a biological stand point exactly what should happen to those strawberries if they are allowed to grow, ripen, and fall from their vines. It is possible for me to hold both these futures in my mind without conflict, and it is important as an educator to get our students to see the world through the lens of science.

 

SWIFT: How often do religious questions arise in your astronomy classes or public lectures?

 

Pamela Gay: I don't think I've gotten all the way through a semester without a student raising their hand and asking me if I believe in God, and I think more then 50% of the public events I've spoken at have included people asking my beliefs. For reasons I don't understand, people — deists and atheists —  often think the religion of a scientist is more important than the quality of their science in determining if they are worth listening to.

 

SWIFT: Do you think such existential questions have a place in science education?

 

Pamela Gay: No. Science already has a hard enough job teaching facts-based science! In addition to what we know, there are also amazing unknowns in science that can be debated - multi-verse theories, string theory, the nature of dark energy. Facts and scientific debates are enough to populate our science education programs several times over.


We also need to be careful not to let the multi-cultural acceptance that is to be respected (to a point) in the humanities to also get applied to science. Astronomy as we teach it in the US contains the same facts as astronomy taught in India. I've dealt with too many people who think that just as we should allow people adhere to Islam, or Judaism, or Christianity, we should also let them adhere to Big Bang, or 7 Day Creationism, or the story of the Sun God and the Spider Woman. Cultural acceptance doesn't apply to science results, and an argument of Genesis versus Big Bang is like arguing if it is better to give someone antibiotics when they're sick or to like the color blue. Sure - you can have the argument, but it doesn't make any sense.


Life is complicated, and educating someone to intelligently handle life is a challenge all of us educators struggle to live up to. I will happily leave existential questions to the humanities faculty (and think science majors should have a liberal arts education), and stray no closer than discussions on the Drake equation with science. In my classroom, I want to create critical thinkers who ask "why do we think that?" If I succeed in that, I'm happy.

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In Agreement
written by William, June 29, 2010
Like Hal Bidlack, Pamela Gay is someone I can relate to. As I've pointed out, it is not a requirement that one be atheist to be an effective skeptic. I make no claim that a higher being exists, it is only a belief that I recognize as unprovable.
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Sting theory?
written by William, June 29, 2010
I believe there is a typo in Pamela's last answer..it should be "string theory".
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written by kenhamer, June 29, 2010
"To me, skepticism applies to testable parts of my life. Through science, I can test ideas and make predictions. As a skeptical thinker, when I'm confronted with data I have to be willing to change my ideas about reality, and if the predictive powers of science fail me, I have to admit my science is wrong. A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable. I can make no testable predictions using religion, but instead find myself faced with having to make an opinion-based judgement. I have made the choice to believe. I admit I have doubts - I am not so strong a person as to say my faith is complete and that in the dark of night I don't worry that I'm wrong. But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in a God."

To me that seems like the essential characteristic of whatever the opposite of skepticism is. (Credulity?) You can take any allegedly testable belief or claim, add in some industrial strength woo, and then claim it's untestable. If you claim that fairys, homeopathy, leprachauns, eskimos and elves cannot be detected by any human means, then by the same logic you can then justify a belief in them, and claim they are beyond the reach of skepticism, or science. It's just a rationalization of belief in a specific kind of woo.

The height of the absurdity is in the outright admission of absence of data, or evidence. Notwithstanding the 2000+ years of non-evidence, even against repeated claims in the Bible that there will be evidence real-soon-now(TM), if you can believe in a god in the face of an "absence of data", then what can't you believe in? Tooth fairys, gremlins, Freemasons turning gold into lead in the centre of the planet Saturn? All of these become fair material for credulous belief, because notwithstanding the absence of data, they are all also untestable. (While that might be frustrating for some, for me it's a non-issue.)

In short a belief in something because you can't determine if it's real or not is a licence to believe anything that has not been proven not to exist. In other words, anything goes.
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Testable claims
written by William, June 29, 2010
@kenhamer, but I do not believe Pamela goes around claiming that her untestable beliefs are true.
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Is she being purposely obtuse?
written by Defaithed, June 29, 2010
Everything in me wants to find no fault in what Pamela's saying, and welcome her as a fellow skeptic with a unique ability to bridge a sticky gap... But isn't there something just wildly hypocritical – or at best, stubbornly obtuse – in her words? These words right here:

"A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable... But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in a God."

Take those exact words, but replace "(a) God" with any of the following:

Zeus
gods and demi-gods and seven magic wishes in the afterlife
vampire zombies from the Smurf-iverse
the mitochloridian-based Force
Yahweh (riding Sleipnir) and Jesus (with fairy wings and four heads, just because) and Abby and Betsy (Jesus' twin psychic shapeshifter sisters)

... and infinite others we can imagine.

"A belief in The Council of Twelve Elvis Ghosts is a belief in something frustratingly untestable... But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in the Council." Is Pamela saying we should hear that and *not* break out laughing? Why should we offer her version one iota more respect? How does her version differ in the slightest from it, other than in its safely assured acceptability among the majority?

isn't she saying – with no qualifiers whatsoever – that it's okay to just believe absolutely anything you like, as long as you can call it "untestable"? How could I possibly call such a person a skeptic?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding her words. Before I decide that PZ was only being far too kind to Pamela, someone please tell me... am I completely missing something??
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She's wrong about one thing...
written by Griz, June 29, 2010
...religion makes plenty of testable claims. As long as a self-labeled skeptic applies their skepticism equally across all areas, then there's no problem. You can believe in god as a first principle or cause for what we see around us, but when it comes to how that god interacts with his/her creation there needs to be the same critical thinking applied as when we're talking about dowsing or esp.

But this is not a problem only with religion. Seems to me we all have our blindspots. I've had discussions with hard core atheists on subject other than religion where they did not apply the same critical thinking but rather the same sort of reasoning that the religious do to protect their beliefs. One conversation that stands out in my mind was a debate about "drugs," what is classified as a drug, what's the difference between "hard" and "soft" drugs (completely arbitrary terms applied always according to someone's agenda), what criteria should be used to legalize or decriminalize. The person with which I had this discussion was not the least bit interested in any of the information I was able to provide that shot down his basic prejudice, that "drugs are bad, mmmmmkay?"
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You're giving religion a free pass
written by Skeptico, June 29, 2010

A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable. I can make no testable predictions using religion, but instead find myself faced with having to make an opinion-based judgement. I have made the choice to believe.


That’s OK, but then you need to acknowledge that this is one area in which you are not being a skeptic.
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written by Sajanas, June 29, 2010
Ah, Non-Overlapping Magisteria. From about age 13 to 16 I lived with that dichotomy, where I understood science implied that a lot of things that the Bible said were not real, but that I still believe in God and Jesus and the like. But if you spend enough time rebutting the patently incorrect science that some believers in religion share, you start to realize that the idea of NOMA is something that is put on science by religion, not put on religion by science. Should we really accept that evolution has nothing to say about religions that believe in special creation? Should we accept that neuroscience can find the source of memory, consciousness, emotion and language, and yet it cannot find a 'soul'? I don't think that its in the best interest of scientists to go round bashing every religious person for being foolish, but I don't think we should shy away from telling the provable truth, even when it is counter to what some religious people would like to believe. Having "respect for religion" is having disrespect to the individuals, if scientists shy away from telling them how the world really works, any more so than one would continue to tell an adult that babies are delivered by a stork.
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@kenhamer: Eskimos?
written by GusGus, June 29, 2010

Don't you believe in Eskimos?
.
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written by latsot, June 29, 2010
Kenhamer:
To me that seems like the essential characteristic of whatever the opposite of skepticism is. (Credulity?) You can take any allegedly testable belief or claim, add in some industrial strength woo, and then claim it's untestable. If you claim that fairys, homeopathy, leprachauns, eskimos and elves cannot be detected by any human means, then by the same logic you can then justify a belief in them, and claim they are beyond the reach of skepticism, or science. It's just a rationalization of belief in a specific kind of woo.


Yes, that's how I see it. A large part of the issue is that a lot of people (including many atheists) seem to think that religious beliefs (or at least, 'sufficiently' mainstream ones) are subject to special pleading of one kind or another, presumably because of the cultural significance religion has in most societies. Many people think we should keep our hands off religion and allow it to play by different rules to everything else, including other varieties of woo.

I can't see that the claims of god's untestability are anything other than dubious rationalisation and special pleading for two main reasons:

First, who says religious beliefs are untestable? I have never been able to understand this argument since a universe with a god in it would seem to be very different from one without a god. At least, any of the gods that human religions have claimed to exist. Someone might (and inevitably will) bring up gods that retreat into the background and hide after setting everything up. That might indeed be untestable in principle. However, that's not what the vastly overwhelming number of theists claim: they believe in some very specific (but different) things and there's no reason why these can't be tested in principle. There might be practical barriers to some or even most of the claims, but that isn't the issue. Holy books make claims about the universe that differ from what science tells us. Gay herself seems confused on this issue. She claims that she can't make any testable predictions from her religion, but then states categorically that the world is more than 6000 years old. Isn't this a testable prediction? If I hypothesise that the world is 6000 years old, I can run tests to see whether its true. This just seems like more special pleading: cherry-picking some bits of the bible away into metaphor without justification, just to retain the illusion of untestability.

Second, under what other circumstances would Gay say that lack of testability is justifiction for believing it? I think most atheists disbelieve in god simply because there are no good reasons to believe the holy books are anything other than silly stories. This is why the invisible pink unicorn argument is a perfectly reasonable response. It would be interesting to see whether Gay would argue that *any* untestable claim can be assumed to be true without harming your qualifications as a skeptic.

Like PZ, I don't think anyone has to be perfectly consistent in their skepticism to be a credible and trusted skeptic. However, all beliefs should be subject to skepticism. People don't get a special pass to have their beliefs remain unexamined just because they happen to be religious.
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No, You're Not Wrong...
written by DataJack, June 29, 2010
Defaithed - You are not wrong in your assessment of Pamela's beliefs, and how she justifies them to herself. However, one of your premises is flawed, and that may be why you are uncomfortable with your conclusion.

Pamela never asked that we "not break out laughing" or that we should show any respect to her beliefs (or anyone else's). She realizes she arrived at her beliefs from a path not skeptical, and is cool with that.

All that being said, I find any and all unsubstantiated beliefs to be on equal footing. Therefore, theistic religion and alt-med and homeopathy and moon-hoax nuttiness are all equally bad thinking, in my opinion. I do not, at all, think I am wrong about this. If one of these were proven to be true tomorrow, I still would not be wrong today, because I believe these positions to be untenable, today, because there is no evidence, today.

Also, there is one point where I disagree with Dr. Gay: When she says she sometimes wonders if her beliefs are wrong, and thinks skeptical atheists must too wonder, occasionally, if they are wrong. I don't. Not Ever. Because it would be silly for me to wonder if something, anything, might be both true and completely, totally, untestable. If something is real but untestable, then it is the exact same as it being "not real". If it has no mechanism by which it can interact with our universe, how does it differ from a cartoon character?
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written by latsot, June 29, 2010
William:

@kenhamer, but I do not believe Pamela goes around claiming that her untestable beliefs are true.


She goes around saying that she believes they are true. Kenhamer's point was that testing things is the main tool we have for determining what to believe and what not to believe. If you say your particular beliefs aren't subject to that tool because of magic, then you've lost the value of having the tool in the first place. There's nothing to stop you claiming that anything else is untestable. And as we know, that's exactly what many of the woo artists do.
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Testable vs Untestable
written by William, June 29, 2010
latsot:

I can devise a test to support my belief. The flaw is obvious, in that the proof and subsequent conclusion are still within the belief system. So, what Pamela Gay does is accept the belief, and realizes that one cannot test it using a pure scientific method (outside the belief).

Yes, she believes in her god. She admits that it is just a belief, and still is able to be skeptical about other things. She also admits that her belief can change given evidence. With no evidence of the absence of God, she still believes. And her belief in no way hurts others or herself.
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written by Trez, June 29, 2010
I also note that she doesn't say which God. Whilst we can be comfortable in our assumption that the universe was not created in 7 days and that dinosaurs didn't live hand in claw with humans, science can neither prove nor disprove the existance of a creator or deity.

Personally I'm an atheist as well as a skeptic, but don't necessarily see the two as being the same thing. Skepticism is an approach to how you think about things whilst the deist/atheist debate is a matter of belief.

My skepticism said that I need to look for the provable and testable evidence for the existance of a God. Mainstream religions were immediately written out, and after consideration I decided in the balance of probability that there probably isn't a God. Pamela Gay has taken the other option

She's agreed that things like creationism are quite frankly ludicrous, but at the end of the day there are still questions that science can't answer. The deist/atheist debate determines whether you beleive they are the work of God, or whether we just don't understand enough yet.

The Skeptic test is whether you even stop to consider both sides of the argument
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@GusGus
written by kenhamer, June 29, 2010
"Don't you believe in Eskimos?"

Just making sure people are paying attention.

After all, I *do* live in the Great White North.
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@William: Testable claims
written by kenhamer, June 29, 2010
"@kenhamer, but I do not believe Pamela goes around claiming that her untestable beliefs are true."

Perhaps, but if you believe something doesn't that imply that you believe it is true? What is the alternative? "I think x is false, but I choose to believe it is true anyway"? Maybe not, but how much different is that then "I do not know if x is true or false, but even in the face of no data or evidence, I choose to believe that it is true"?

Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
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@William
written by kenhamer, June 29, 2010
"With no evidence of the absence of God, she still believes. And her belief in no way hurts others or herself."

I have no doubt that is the case with Ms. Gay.

However, while it may be well outside this discussion, for so many others their religious beliefs are justification for all kinds of nastiness.
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Re: Testable claims
written by William, June 29, 2010
kenhamer: There is a difference between "I think x is false" and "I do not know if x is true". We are saying "I believe x is true, and there is no evidence to prove it", which different yet.

Pamela is not saying "I think there is no god". She admits doubt, but that is not the same as "I do not know if there is a god". Instead, she says, "...in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in a God.", That is "I believe there is a god, and there is no evidence to prove it."
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written by Belmons, June 29, 2010
What I cannot understand is this: she says she "made the choice to believe in God." How the *%&!! can you CHOOSE to believe in something? Answer: you can't. Nobody can. So what she must mean is, "I have chosen to SAY I believe in God, and I'll defend this "belief" as far as I can, as long as it doesn't directly contradict my scientific knowledge." I'm afraid I have to say that this seems to me hypocritical. Once a scientist PRETENDS to believe anything, he or she ceases to be a scientist. What did Medawar say of Teilhard de Chardin - that he could be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he had gone to great pains to deceive himself.
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Lots of atheists aren't skeptics
written by David H. Gorski MD, PhD, June 29, 2010
Over the years, I have met many avowed atheists whom I would not consider to be credible skeptics, who are not very skeptical of the sorts of claims James Randi would call "woo woo." Sure, they lack belief in God, but believe in the New Age, or the power of crystals, or other paranormal or supernatural folderol.


Indeed. Bill Maher comes to mind as an excellent example of this. While castigating religion, he promotes for anti-vaccine nonsense, castigates "Western" medicine, and buys into all sorts of diet and nutritional woo.

Actually, at TAM7 last year, I encountered at least two attendees who clearly sympathized with anti-vaccine pseudoscience, this in spite of the Anti-Anti-Vax panel and the fundraising drive to support vaccination in Nevada.
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Gahh!
written by David G, June 29, 2010
Why did this software add my titles? Sorry about that...
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Chose to Believe
written by William, June 29, 2010
Belmons: No, she chooses to believe. Given careful introspection of what she observes, she has come to the belief that there is a god. That is a choice. She is not pretending anything.

Of course, they way you see it appears hypocritical, but it is not.
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written by Belmons, June 29, 2010
Sorry William, but you and I seem to have differing views of the meaning of English. If you study what you've observed, and thus arrive at a belief, it is not a choice. You can't help it. Anyway, surely she has not in fact made that "choice" on the basis of evidence. She freely admits there is none.
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Choice
written by William, June 29, 2010
It is called a "leap of faith", and one chooses to make it or some other leap of faith. If one doesn't choose to make a leap of faith, then there is no choice--and thus no belief. One can make whatever leap of faith one chooses, and it will still remain valid within the belief system.
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written by Belmons, June 29, 2010
Oh dear, William, you are arguing like a theologian (and I don't mean that as a compliment). The truth of a proposition does not depend upon whether you, or I, or all the world, choose to believe it. Choice doesn't come into it. It's either true or it isn't. The universe is what it is, it's not part of a "belief system".
Perhaps you're a relativist, and think one concept of reality is as good as another. If so, you are beyond help.
And another thing: in your scenario, presumably the choice one makes could be to DISbelieve. A scientist's experiments lead to a certain conclusion, but if he chooses (that magic word) he can reject the conclusion.
In the Soviet Union we had a good example of a leap of faith. T.D.Lysenko was made head of the Soviet Institute of Genetics because his ignorant belief in Lamarckism fitted political ideology, and Soviet agriculture suffered accordingly, (as did his scientific critics, who were banished, exiled or imprisoned).
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written by Willy K, June 29, 2010

Belief IS testable!

Belief happens in the brain, the brain can be tested.

Dr. May, look for information about neuroscience. You may find the evidence you need to stop believing in supernatural beings and you then might understand why you used to believe in them. smilies/wink.gif

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@David G
written by kenhamer, June 29, 2010
Why did this software add my titles? Sorry about that...


Hey, you worked hard for those.
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written by kenhamer, June 29, 2010
Then we're right back to who/what created the creator?

Or do creators just spontaneously appear?
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Never stop doubting!
written by pervel, June 29, 2010
Pamela Gay:... I am haunted with my uncertainty in God and envy theologians like CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias who claim pure belief.


I don't know exactly what is meant by "pure belief," but given the context it would seem to mean "not having doubts." If that's the case, then I simply don't understand how a self-proclaimed skeptic can envy this. Doubt is a good thing. Doubt makes you think. Doubt is essential for skepticism. A person who has stopped doubting is a person who have stopped thinking.
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written by kdv, June 29, 2010
I agree with other posters who describe Gay's position as special pleading ... she won't countenance others' belief in a 6000 year old universe, but she considers herself a skeptic despite her belief in (a) God. As also has been pointed out, that belief *is* testable, at least in the case of the personal god worshiped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, although perhaps not in the case of deist and pantheist gods.

However I concede it is possible to be a very sincere skeptic in one area, while being totally credulous in another. For example, I could conduct ( yet another ) rigorous scientific study discrediting every facet of homeopathy, from basic principles to practical applications, while still holding a sincere belief in UFOs. [ Of the alien intelligence kind, I mean, not the prosaic literal meaning ]. My belief in UFOs would in no way make my testing of homeopathy less valid.

However, and here's the problem, what do I say when the homeopaths come back at me and ask why I'm permitted to criticize them for believing without evidence, when I am guilty of exactly the same thing in my own field? I'm left feeling very silly, and, more importantly, disinterested third parties might think so too, and thus discount my research on that basis. I have shot myself in the foot. And probably caused the death or suffering of some innocent children too.

BTW: slightly off topic. Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was replaced last week by his former deputy, Julia Gillard, as our new PM. [ Note: We don't have impeachments. A midnight knock on the door was all it took ].

Yesterday, on the radio, Ms Gillard was asked whether she believed in god. She replied that she does not believe in god, and she had no intention of pretending to do so in order to ingratiate herself with various groups in the electorate. I don't like her much in other ways, but she gets my big tick of approval for that one. Let's see, the last atheist US President was ... um... err.... can someone help me out here?

[ Sorry. Couldn't help myself :-) ]

[ Well, all right, I could have helped myself. But I decided not to :-) ]

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@kdv
written by Kritikos, June 29, 2010
Let's see, the last atheist US President was ... um... err.... can someone help me out here?

I'll guess Abraham Lincoln. Do I win a prize?
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No, You're Wrong Popsaw
written by DataJack, June 29, 2010
popsaw said "It is commonly believed that life on earth spontaneously appeared. Spontaneous life though has never been demonstrated therefore it is a theory that requires faith, just as believing in a creator requires faith."
No. That is not how science works. Theories do NOT require faith, they explain evidence, such as facts (observations), and laws (formulas or tendencies). Theories must predict yet-to-be-observed events, and must be falsifiable.

"God did it" is not a theory. Abiogenesis is.

popsaw said "Both claims are incredible yet one has to be true and one false. It is for skeptics to decide which they personally wish to believe and not for anyone to dictate otherwise, unless science can prove otherwise."

No. Not at all. Abiogenesis seems to be heading in the right direction, especially as we learn more about cell structure and DNA. The more we learn, the more the theory is modified to better explain reality. I have no doubt we will nail it, and soon. "God did it" still predicts nothing, and is not falsifiable. It is not now (and never will be) a scientific theory. We skeptics do not get to decide what we "wish" to believe, we accept the best possible explanation (theory) for a given occurrence.

Pamela has made it clear she does not accept Christianity because of the evidence, she believes it because she wants to. That's OK, as long as you don't conflate the two, like you did.
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written by minusRusty, June 29, 2010
*wrings hands at this becoming a gay conference* /ba-da-dum

-Rusty
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A question
written by tmac57, June 29, 2010
I wonder how most deists-astrophysicists would answer this question? Based on the current state of knowledge,rank the following in order of most, to least likely: a) String Theory b) That God created the universe c) That multi-verses exist.
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@danieljref
written by Kritikos, June 29, 2010
It's easy to see how the "true" (fundamentalists?) skeptics come about showing their "tolerance" to the ones that call themselves skeptic but believe in God. How dare a scientist (even a Doctor) claims to be skeptical with a belief in God? Because it's incoherent to be a skeptic and believe in God (does that sound like orthodox/fundamentalists religious people?). (quotes picked: "To me that seems like [...] the opposite of skepticism"; "isn't there something just wildly hypocritical"; "we should hear that and *not* break out laughing?"; " ...and [she] thinks skeptical atheists must too wonder, occasionally, if they are wrong. I don't. Not Ever." ; " How the *%&!! can you CHOOSE to believe in something?" - And so on and so forth.)


You show an amazing ability to miss the point, Daniel. The quotations that you cite pertain to the epistemological rule that Dr. Gay invokes to sustain her theism, not to the theism itself. That rule is that belief is permissible wherever empirical refutation is impossible. People have argued (1) that this rule gives license not only to Christian theism but to all manner of wacky beliefs, and (2) that such a rule is contrary to skepticism. If you have a counterargument to these claims, by all means let us hear it. I suspect that you haven't.
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written by latsot, June 29, 2010
William:
I can devise a test to support my belief. The flaw is obvious, in that the proof and subsequent conclusion are still within the belief system. So, what Pamela Gay does is accept the belief, and realizes that one cannot test it using a pure scientific method (outside the belief).


I don't understand this argument. Take a specific claim that a given religious person makes (say, prayer helps ill people get better), work out to their satisfaction what needs to be tested, how it is going to be tested and what the results would tell us, then just test it. This has nothing to do with belief systems; you'd just be testing a specific example of a belief held by a specific person or group of people. Such a test wouldn't prove or disprove the existence of any gods, but that's not what I'm advocating. I'm just saying that many of people's religious beliefs can be tested, at least in principle. This can be done empirically, and not within anyone's belief system (whatever that means). Gay's claim that her beliefs are untestable is just plain wrong. A religious person can always retreat to the extent of being vague about what their beliefs are or describing a god whose existence genuinely can't be tested, but then they'd have to explain their belief in the various trappings of their particular religion, some of which will be testable propositions.

Yes, she believes in her god. She admits that it is just a belief, and still is able to be skeptical about other things. She also admits that her belief can change given evidence. With no evidence of the absence of God, she still believes. And her belief in no way hurts others or herself.


I've never suggested that she's not entitled to her beliefs and have no problem with her holding them, although I don't see how whether her beliefs hurt others or not (which is debatable) is relevant. I have no particular problem with her being considered as an effective skeptic in other areas. I'm in no position to insist that everyone who identifies or is identified as a skeptic must be skeptical in all areas at all times. But I think I can insist that if we wish to be thought of as skeptical, *all* our views must be fair game for examination. I'm not saying that Gay thinks otherwise, just that religious views shouldn't get a free pass.

I also think it's not unreasonable to doubt someone's skeptical credentials if they are known to deliberately suspend their skepticism (or their standards for skepticism, as in Gay's case) in some important area. It may well be that such people are perfectly effective skeptics in those other areas, but it seems a good enough reason to keep an eye open. Bill Maher (rightly) gets a lot of stick for some of his medical views although he's admired in other ways. Isn't it reasonable to wonder whether he really understands what it means to be skeptical? Shouldn't we take an extra bit of care when thinking about the claims of someone who is known to ignore certain kinds of evidence?

Finally, I fail to see how Gay can claim that evidence could change her beliefs if she also says that her beliefs are untestable (although I can't see where in the text she says the former, perhaps she's said it elsewhere). Where is this evidence going to come from if not from tests?
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written by latsot, June 29, 2010
popsaw:
It is commonly believed that life on earth spontaneously appeared. Spontaneous life though has never been demonstrated therefore it is a theory that requires faith, just as believing in a creator requires faith. Both claims are incredible yet one has to be true and one false. It is for skeptics to decide which they personally wish to believe and not for anyone to dictate otherwise, unless science can prove otherwise.


You are discounting arguments from probability. The probability that life spontaneously appeared and the probability that god exists and was responsible are not equal. In fact, the proposition that life 'spontaneously' appeared (if we agree that the transition from what we'd call non-life to what we'd call life was gradual) is not increadible at all. It's pretty plausible given what we already know.

You are actually talking about two different types of faith. We have strong, coherent scientific theories about the origins of life, many of which agree with each other. While we can't (yet and perhaps not ever) we have a pretty good idea about the sort of processes that must have been going on and we're learning more all the time. The 'faith' we need in this proposition is minimal: we just need to accept that there are some gaps in our knowledge of the specifics.

By contrast, to believe in some kind of god, we need to postulate a magical being who has never supplied a *jot* of evidence in its own existence.

Do you seriously think these two types of faith are the same?
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credible skeptics
written by ClareZ, June 29, 2010
I have great respect for both the interviewer and the interviewee but I must state that the only sensible belief for a skeptic is agnostism. God has not been proven or disproven and agnostics are not afraid to say, "I don't know". It isn't a wishy washy stand, it is a call to reason.

That said, I really don't care what anyone else thinks - we all crave a philosophy we can live with and that feeds our needs. I wouldn't presume to throw stones at anyone else's.
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True Skepticism
written by ClareZ, June 29, 2010
""Should skeptic organizations be atheist organizations?,""

Of course not. The should be agnostic organizations. An agnostic accepts that about the truth or falseness of God, they do not know...yet. And this isn't a wishy-washy stand, it is a call to reason.

That said, life is hard and everyone needs a philosophy they can live with and embrace. Very few people when asked if there is a god say, "Who cares?" Everyone has a thought on it for a variety of reasons. And for that reason alone, all who embrace critical thinking in 99 44/100 % (or even 80%) of their lives should be encouraged.
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True Skeptic and the unknown
written by ClareZ, June 29, 2010
This is my third go round trying to post this so if all three show up at once - SORRY!

A true skeptic would not be a theist, a deist or an atheist but an agnostic. An agnostic accepts that without enough facts about something s/he just does not know. One day math or science may prove the extremely hard to prove, but until then it is just a guess one way or the other. Ms. Gay is no more unreasonable than any hard core atheist who insists there is no god. What s/he should be saying is, I can't commit one way or the other because there isn't enough data...yet.

And this is not wishy-washy thinking. It is a call to reason.

That said, life is hard and it's long and filled with challenges and we all want a philosophy we can live with and I don't begrudge anyone who is trying their best. And anyone who uses critical thinking in 80% of their daily dealings is way ahead of the pack.
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"Fundamentalist" skeptics?
written by Defaithed, June 29, 2010
@DataJack:

Defaithed - You are not wrong in your assessment of Pamela's beliefs, and how she justifies them to herself. However, one of your premises is flawed, and that may be why you are uncomfortable with your conclusion... Pamela never asked that we "not break out laughing" or that we should show any respect to her beliefs (or anyone else's). She realizes she arrived at her beliefs from a path not skeptical, and is cool with that.


Thanks for the response. Though please note that I don't claim what she does or doesn't ask; rather, I simply ask whether or not she would request that we not laugh at belief in (for example) invisible pink unicorns.

The reason I find Gay's stance a wee dismaying is because it's sad to see a fellow skeptic (?) back herself into such a no-win corner. The question we have to ask of her is this: Would she take her statement about belief in God, with "God" replaced by "gods" or "Quetzalcoatl" or "invisible unicorns", and allow that version as equally valid? The problem she faces is this:

If she laughs off, or dismisses, or otherwise demotes the "invisible unicorn" version, then that's special pleading – not even for religion itself, but for a particular sect of religion. It's an utterly untenable stance of "this untestable belief is OK, because I say so; others are less OK, again because I say so."

On the other hand, if she says, "Sure, I'd have to allow all versions as equally valid", then she's just asking to be laughed at. Not by skeptics alone, but by everyone. "A belief in space fairies is a belief in something frustratingly untestable... But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in space fairies." Anyone saying that will be a laughing stock.

I have no idea how she'd respond, but – and maybe my imagination is just too limited here – it looks like a no-win place to be. Unless I'm missing something, no matter how you answer the question, you lose. The only way to slip by without embarrassment would be for onlookers – supposed skeptics – to just politely cough and look away and not ask the belief-holder how s/he would answer that unpleasant question. In which case we're all no longer skeptics.


@danieljref:

It's easy to see how the "true" (fundamentalists?) skeptics come about showing their "tolerance" to the ones that call themselves skeptic but believe in God. How dare a scientist (even a Doctor) claims to be skeptical with a belief in God? Because it's incoherent to be a skeptic and believe in God (does that sound like orthodox/fundamentalists religious people?).


As always, I apologize if I'm just misreading things, but: Isn't your entire answer sneaking around a key question, and invoking special pleading to do so? You keep mentioning "God". But the question isn't about a special "God" (if it were, that'd be special pleading). It's whether one can announce a belief in anything one wants, and by adding "it's untestable!", still be recognized and respected as a skeptic.

Let's try it. Let's replace the so-very-socially-acceptable "God" with something a little more... out there:

"It's easy to see how the "true" (fundamentalists?) skeptics come about showing their "tolerance" to the ones that call themselves skeptic but believe in 5th-dimensional Thetan psychics. How dare a scientist (even a Doctor) claims to be skeptical with a belief in 5th-dimensional Thetan psychics? Because it's incoherent to be a skeptic and believe in 5th-dimensional Thetan psychics (does that sound like orthodox/fundamentalists religious people?)."

How does that sound? Is it just as valid as the "God" version? The above claimant might be a pleasant and intelligent and highly accomplished person, and a wonderfully insightful skeptic on many topics, all of which I'm sure apply to Ms Gay... But would you feel a little less certain about applying the skeptic label to the above "belief in Thetans" claimant, than you would for a "belief in God" claimant?

If I said, "Er... that Thetan-believing 'skeptic' may be all-around a wonderful person, but s/he isn't terribly skeptical...", would that really make me a "fundamentalist"?
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Be certain you know what Theism is before you spout..
written by Mark P, June 29, 2010
For example, it is pretty stupid to regale a Theist with ...

Notwithstanding the 2000+ years of non-evidence, even against repeated claims in the Bible that there will be evidence real-soon-now(


... since Theism is not about any revealed texts.

Nor does the following make much sense ...

Take those exact words, but replace "(a) God" with any of the following:

Zeus
gods and demi-gods and seven magic wishes in the afterlife
vampire zombies from the Smurf-iverse
the mitochloridian-based Force
Yahweh (riding Sleipnir) and Jesus (with fairy wings and four heads, just because) and Abby and Betsy (Jesus' twin psychic shapeshifter sisters)


... since many of these are not incompatible with Theism!

The big issue for Theists is usually the things that science can't explain. Where the universe sprang from, in particular. All the rabid Atheists saying how silly Theism is, while confusing it badly with conventional religion, are still stumped with this one. It is unexplainable.

I say Pamela's reason - "God" did it - is as reasonable as the Atheist one - it popped into being out of nothing. Actually I think they are both intrinsically unlikely, which is why I'm Agnostic.

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written by DataJack, June 30, 2010
Mark P: "I say Pamela's reason - "God" did it - is as reasonable as the Atheist one - it popped into being out of nothing. Actually I think they are both intrinsically unlikely, which is why I'm Agnostic."

No. That's not how atheism works. Or even how critical thinking works. Or even how regular thinking works. Atheism says merely, "I don't believe in gods". Good atheism appends, "Because there is no evidence". That's it. Atheism has nothing to say about the origins of the universe, and it is extremely sloppy thinking for you to suggest that it does.

As to said origins, critical, scientific thinking says this, and this alone: "We don't yet know how it came about."

Fifty years ago, we didn't know about DNA - does that mean "god did it" was an acceptable answer for genetic inheritance?

Three hundred years ago we didn't know about germ theory - does that mean "god did it" was an acceptable answer to disease?

"We don't know...yet" is one of the most liberating statements one can utter. "god did it" is one of the most stifling.

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written by latsot, June 30, 2010
ClareZ

This is my third go round trying to post this so if all three show up at once - SORRY!


I got email notifications of all your posts hours ago, but they only just appeared on the site (all at once). It seems sometimes to take a while for posts to make it to the site. I'll choose your third post to respond to:

A true skeptic would not be a theist, a deist or an atheist but an agnostic.


Technically, yes. But let's not nit-pick overly about the definition of 'atheist'. Or 'true skeptic', for that matter. Personally, I identify as an atheist, but technically I'm agnostic. If good enough evidence turned up, I'd change my position, but until then I'll go with the overwhelmingly more probable alternative, which is that there's no god. So to all intents and purposes, I count myself as an atheist. I'm secure in that position and I don't expect that will ever change, because I don't expect good enough evidence for a god to ever show up.

But if it does, I'll spin on a dime.

A common misconception about the agnostic position - which I suspect you share - is that it necessarily assumes that god and not-god are equally likely. This is preposterous. It is perfectly reasonable to insist that there's probably no god if there's no good reason to believe that there is one, just as it is with invisible unicorns etc. And there *is* no good reason to believe either, as any skeptic should acknowledge (as Gay does, even though she believes one of them anyway).

An agnostic is someone who'll change her mind if the evidence requires it, not necessarily someone who won't discount goblins just because nobody has disproved them to her personal satisfaction.

De facto atheism of this kind is a rational and skeptical position. 50/50 agnosticism isn't because it ignores the balance of probabilities.
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Bad reason?
written by J. D. Mack, June 30, 2010
"He also lists what he thinks are some bad reasons that skeptic organizations shouldn't be identical to atheist organizations, like the desire not to offend religious folks who are allies in advancing skepticism and critical thinking, as long as it doesn't undermine theism. "

I am an atheist, but I live in the real world. I think this is a *great* reason for skeptical organizations not to be equivalent to atheist organizations. As a skeptic, I have a vision for how I want things to be, and making theists uncomfortable with being skeptics is not going to get us there. It *is* possible to believe in some sort of god and reject all other pseudo-scientific claims, whether the hard core atheist/skeptic wants to believe this or not. If we only allow "perfect" skeptics at the table, then the movement is dead.
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written by William, June 30, 2010
..and the observation would still fit the belief system, even if it was false, since the premise was based on the belief system in the first place.

"Yep, she was healed! And since my premise said religion did it, therefore the premise is true." I recognize that flaw, and never make any claims to its veracity.
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written by latsot, June 30, 2010
William, is your last post a reply to what I wrote? If so:

..and the observation would still fit the belief system, even if it was false, since the premise was based on the belief system in the first place. "Yep, she was healed! And since my premise said religion did it, therefore the premise is true." I recognize that flaw, and never make any claims to its veracity.


I don't think you understand how science works.
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Gotta agree with JD Mack about this part:
written by Mr. Science, June 30, 2010
"If we only allow "perfect" skeptics at the table, then the movement is dead."

Pardon the religious metaphor, but the winning strategy looks for converts, a losing one looks for heretics.
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written by halohms, June 30, 2010
Personally, I will have to question any of her skeptic conclusions in light of knowing she believes in a god. I am relatively new to skepticism but not to atheism. Not sure what should develop first during a persons learning process. I don't find it logical to be selective in your skepticism if you want to have any of your statements valued. You must be consistent and a belief in a god is not consistent with being skeptical.

Just like if I said I had a dream of a winning lottery number and won. I, as a skeptic would deny the dream and say it was random chance. If I promote myself as being able to dream lottery outcomes, my credibility as a skeptic is in question.

So I will side that to be a real skeptic, you can not believe there are any gods (except for the FSM).
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Well thought out, halohms
written by Mr. Science, June 30, 2010
I mean, really --- great thinking! Anyone who is wrong about one thing must be wrong about everything. Perfectly rational. Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics, obviously one can't trust any of his conclusions about physics.

And no statements from a non-atheist should be valued, clearly. No similarities to the thinking of religious fundamentalists there, nosir.
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written by latsot, June 30, 2010
Mr. Science, you are ill-named. Your analogy is stupid. Halohms did not in any way suggest that someone who is wrong about one thing must be wrong about everything. I think you'll find that it was you yourself who said that, nog Halohms.
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written by Mr. Science, June 30, 2010
Perhaps, latsot, but your reading skills need some work. Here's what halohms had to say: "Personally, I will have to question any of her skeptic conclusions in light of knowing she believes in a god."

So, I think you'll find he did say exactly what I claimed. Hmmm, when inconvenient facts interfere with the argument, deny said facts and call whoever pointed them out names. Great going, latsot - now you're arguing like a creationist!
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written by latsot, June 30, 2010
Mr Science:

OK, Troll.

Halohms can question someone's skeptical abilities on the grounds that they believe something silly such as religion without implying that someone who is wrong about one thing is wrong about everything. These aren't the same thing now, are they?

By all means enjoy your trolling though.
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written by halohms, June 30, 2010
Mr. Science doesn't understand written English very well. I basically said that I must question the validity and correctness of everything else she says for myself as opposed to accepting everything she says because how do we know she hasn't applied the same rules to her skepticism as she did for her belief in a god? Her belief in a god is flawed and hence she is no longer perfect.

Now, having seen a lot of what PZ Myers has written, I am almost certain to accept what he says to be accurate and the truth since I have not seen him error ever. He should be proclaimed the 5th horseman.
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written by Mr. Science, June 30, 2010
There goes my crappy understanding of English again. Halohans didn't say being wrong about one thing (the god/religion question) makes you wrong about all things... just that it makes it illogical to place any value on your statements if you whiff on that question.

Wow, for people who disdain religion, these two sure have co-opted the m.o. of religious fundamentalism well. Just as bible-belt fundamentalist claim "you can't pick and choose what parts of the bible to believe," you've offered up "if you believe in one irrational thing, you obviously can't be right on other skeptical matters." (I was thinking just that some time back when I read the work of avowed Christian Gregg Easterbrook when he eviscerated Sylvia Browne.) Just as the most devoutly religious offer their special pleadings, latsot gives us "I'm not saying being wrong about one thing makes you wrong about everything... unless you're wrong about religion, in which case you are." Just as fundamentalists avoid rational examination of the facts, y'all slam Pamela Gay's ability to think skeptically in all areas based only on the fact that she believes in God, not on any examination of her ideas in those other areas.

And above all, daring to question the orthodoxy = grounds for dismissal with name-calling. It's obviously just trollery, there couldn't possibly be anything worth actually thinking about.
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written by halohms, June 30, 2010
Mr. Science (wrong name for you), you are correct there, you do have a "crappy understanding of English". As a militant atheist, I say if you believe in any gods, you are wrong and delusional! The probability that there is a god ever is 1/infinity and lacking any proof, I will live and behave as if that number is ZERO!
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No offense but...
written by Alencon, June 30, 2010
No offense but she sounds just like me five or six years ago.

I'm not sure if atheism is a subset of skepticism or simply whether the two sets have a healthy overlap. I've meet atheists that I wouldn't particularly consider skeptics. Besides, like someone said up above, we all have our blind spots.

I think, I don't know, but I think, that if one allows skepticism to run its course unimpeded, in the overwhelming majority of cases it leads to atheism. Of course there are many valid reasons NOT to let skepticism run its course and often it's an unexpected, unpleasant or violent nudge that forces one to keep following it to that logical conclusion.

I see nothing particularly wrong with choosing to believe in a god. I see lots wrong with claiming knowledge of the existence of a god and even more wrong with claiming to know his (her? its?) will.
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Ok. Let's see... (or @Kriticos and @Defaithed)
written by danieljref, June 30, 2010
@Kritikos
You must have not read the quotes, because "hypocritical", "break out laughing" and "*%&!!" are neither techinical nor valid terms to analyze epistemological rules. So your first fact is wrong, but let's move on...

Now, what you think is an explanation is exactly the point I'm trying to show. Could you please tell what skepticism is, because last I checked it could be a philosophical school or stance, a position towards some aspects of science, even a personal position towards a specific object, area or field of reality or maybe a simple doubt. And in none of these cases there is an authority to judge who fits the definition. Are you in any position to tell which (meaning) is the right one? Are they (the ones I quoted)? Neither of you created nor contributed in any bit to Skepticism in all of its possible meanings. Why are you so sure that you know what it IS and what rules it follows? And what about proclaiming who IS and who IS NOT a skeptic? There is no other reason than the fact that you accepted what somebody else told you about it and you simply follow them because you want to. And now you behave in no different way that all religious people who are sure that Truth has been revealed onto them. You are just credulous about what you've been told and since it fits your experiences you accept it and out of nowhere you proclaim yourself as someone with the authority to include/exclude people in the Skeptic group.

@Defaithed

Initially your example changes in no way what I intended to say (apologies accepted). The problem is not in what you believe, but in people behaving as representatives of Skepticism with knowledge and authority to say who IS and who IS NOT a skeptic (which is exactly as any representative of any religion defining what are the religion rules and saying who belongs and who doesn't - and judging the ones who doesn't).

Secondly, if you change words of a sentence to get a ridiculous meaning you previously intended and tries to apply the ridiculous meaning back to the original sentence, you may have a point. Unfortunately, that's not valid and will lead to incongruities. Don't agree? Ok. Let's try your way (I may oversimplify, but I think you will get my point)...

Original: The Theory of Evolution explains how life evolved in planet Earth and ended up in the different species of living beings we see today.

Argument: If someone accepts the Theory of Evolution, s/he cannot be a true scientist. Because the question is not about a special "life", it's whether someone can accept that a theory can explain the evolution of anything and still be recognized as a scientist. Let's replace the so-very-socially-acceptable "life" with something a little more... out there:

"The Theory of Evolution explains how 5th-dimensional Thetan psychics evolved in planet Earth and ended up in the different species of 5th-dimensional Thetan psychics we see today."

How does that sound? Is it just as valid as the "life" version? Would you feel a little less certain about applying the scientist label to the "evolution of Thetans" claimant, than you would for a "evolution of life" claimant?
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Huh?
written by Defaithed, June 30, 2010
@danieljref:

Sorry, I truly don't follow. Yes, the statement "The Theory of Evolution explains how 5th-dimensional Thetan psychics evolved in planet Earth..." is less valid than "The Theory of Evolution explains how life evolved in planet Earth...". It's far less valid.

"Life" is real (at least in every sense that we can call something "real" – it's observed, it's testable, it exists, it's there).

"5th-dimensional Thetan psychics" are not real – or at least, there's been no evidence at all demonstrated for the existence, the "reality", of such.

The two statements are very, very different. If it was your intent to make that point, then we're well agreed. (If not... I'm missing the point.)


Now, back to an earlier pairing:

"A belief in God is a belief in something frustratingly untestable... But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in a God."

vs

"A belief in psychic Thetans is a belief in something frustratingly untestable... But in the absence of data, I have made the choice to believe in psychic Thetans."


Is the second of these as equally valid as the first? A simple "yes" or "no" should do! (Ideally followed by the "why", of course.)

Should either, or both, of the above, be more exempt from criticism than typical skepticism targets like homeopathy or astrology? Again, a very simple answer should suffice.


I'm not looking to be obnoxious or make decisions on who is or isn't a skeptic. I'm just trying to understand what the main article is saying about the inclusion of some non-skepticism in a skeptic's views. Certainly, we'll all fall short of 100% skepticism, as well noted in the article:

"Theism is just one belief you may abandon. But I don't think abandoning theism is a necessary result of skepticism, if only because I don't think every skeptic is always going to be completely consistent in her skepticism."

Reading and re-reading that, I sense (and hope) that the author isn't making a special plea for theism, and tosses it out only as one example. And I assume that the author, being consistent, would be equally as comfortable with "Reiki healing is just one belief you may abandon. But I don't think abandoning reiki healing is a necessary result of skepticism, if only because I don't think every skeptic is always going to be completely consistent in her skepticism."

I guess the point, then, would be simply: "Don't expect 100% perfection and consistency in any individual's skepticism." I can't disagree with that!

But I also agree fully with PZ's rejoinder: "Don't expect those lapses from skepticism to be exempt from criticism".
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written by grahamk5, June 30, 2010
As an atheist and skeptic (and vegetarian) I notice contradictions and hypocritical beliefs and actions within myself. I confess I have not reached perfection or purity. I believe there is great irrationality in some of my actions or feelings about issues. I like this. I don’t always want cleanliness. I enjoy spotting contradictions within myself and seeing if I can (or want to) resolve them. I have not come across Pamela Gay before but I greatly respect her ability to mix and talk with heretics such as us. I admire her doubt, even about her own religious faith, yet her desire to stand forth. She seems a woman of great integrity and I wish to aspire to her achievements as I hate religious, political and ideological purity!
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written by William, July 01, 2010
A militant atheist is as bad as a bible-thumping evangelist.

Anytime you say "you're wrong" for a belief, when there is no evidence to support your claim, you are as bad as the ones you are fighting against.

Pamela gay does not claim knowledge of the existence of God or any god, but that only she believes in God. She is also not pushing that belief on others and condemning them for not believing. And neither am I.
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Tough
written by halohms, July 01, 2010
William, do you think that of Dawkins and Hitchens?

Burden of proof of the existence of any god is believers and not not mine. One can not prove something does not exist in this vast universe.
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The neck of the Giraffe, Lowly rated comment [Show]
I think you get it... And it's a simple NO (although if followed by a "why" is not that simple anymore)
written by danieljref, July 01, 2010
@Defaithed

Well, you got my point correctly ("Theory of Evolution" example).

You know that "life" is real because you know what this term means and by the concept you have of it, you know it is true because it is self evident.

While, on the other hand, "5th-dimensional Thetan psychics" is a term which inherently carries with it the notion that it cannot be real.

It may be a wild guess, but you seem to think that your pairing does not comprise the same idea I gave in my example (described above), i.e., the concept you have of the term "God" inherently carries the notion that it cannot be real. And for that reason you think your pairing is dealing with two unreal entities (only differing in name). The problem is in the premise (so to speak) not in the conclusion. The concept of God does not carry this unreal notion (at least as it is originally intended). If you don't really know why, write what you understand the term God means, and I'll start from there to show my point (so as to show the "why" that you asked for).

I didn't mentioned it earlier because it was simply not my point, but either way you look at it I think she is wrong (I'll leave the details for later). Nevertheless, even thinking that she is wrong I have no idea as if, for her "wrongness", she is skeptic, religious or something else (and honestly I couldn't care less).

One of the issues I'd like to point out is this one: Who said Skepticism is a rock hard concept that should be followed in everything pertaining reality? For instance, is there a science that study all reality at once? If not, how do you know there is a reality? Are you skeptic about it, too? So could there be something that even if not measured by any science is true?

On a side and final note, I found it very offensive what the author said (and you quoted - "...completely consistent in her skepticism"). He is simply saying she can only take such stance because she is a double-standard hypocrite. So, for me, here is another skeptic judging someone because she doesn't "fit the rules" of his group.
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@danieljref
written by Kritikos, July 01, 2010
You must have not read the quotes, because "hypocritical", "break out laughing" and "*%&!!" are neither techinical nor valid terms to analyze epistemological rules. So your first fact is wrong, but let's move on...

You are quite right that I did not give equal weight to all the quotations: I paid attention to the substantive ones and disregarded those that were mere exclamations, as only the former seemed to me relevant to identifying a position that might be criticized.
Now, what you think is an explanation is exactly the point I'm trying to show. Could you please tell what skepticism is, because last I checked it could be a philosophical school or stance, a position towards some aspects of science, even a personal position towards a specific object, area or field of reality or maybe a simple doubt. And in none of these cases there is an authority to judge who fits the definition. Are you in any position to tell which (meaning) is the right one? Are they (the ones I quoted)? Neither of you created nor contributed in any bit to Skepticism in all of its possible meanings. Why are you so sure that you know what it IS and what rules it follows? And what about proclaiming who IS and who IS NOT a skeptic? There is no other reason than the fact that you accepted what somebody else told you about it and you simply follow them because you want to. And now you behave in no different way that all religious people who are sure that Truth has been revealed onto them. You are just credulous about what you've been told and since it fits your experiences you accept it and out of nowhere you proclaim yourself as someone with the authority to include/exclude people in the Skeptic group.

Daniel, I will try to respond to this as if you were asking a legitimate question and not just being an obnoxious, blustering windbag.

You ask me to tell what skepticism is. Well, as you are surely aware, there is a popular movement that calls itself the skeptical movement, and calls what it advocates skepticism. The JREF is one prominent organization that belongs to it; others include the Committee for Free Inquiry and the Skeptics Society. Among the persons associated with this movement there is a considerable degree of agreement as to what they mean by skepticism. For instance, the writer or writers of one page on the Web site of the Skeptics Society define it thus: "Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position." Others might add further details or change the emphasis but, as I said, there is nonetheless a considerable degree of agreement in essentials.

Of course, the word "skepticism" has other senses. "Skepticism" in the aforementioned sense is a very different thing from what was practiced by the ancient Greek thinkers to whom the word "skeptic" was first applied, and different again from how the word is most commonly used, as when someone says, "His claims were met with skepticism" (i.e., doubt). If you like, we can do some lexicography and word-history here. None of that bears on the questions about skepticism that have been discussed on this page, such as whether it is compatible with skepticism to believe in God.

I could elaborate on this question in terms of the understanding of the word "skepticism" that is operative among the people who write for this blog and most of those who respond in comments, but your post already seems to me to offer sufficient evidence that you have neither the desire nor the ability to respond to the issues in a substantive and rational manner.
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And...
written by danieljref, July 01, 2010
@Kriticos
I paid attention to the substantive ones and disregarded those that were mere exclamations

I'm sorry. Are you apologizing or did you actually want me to read your mind and talk about the things "to which you paid attention" and "seemed to you as relevant"?

"Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position."

Do I need to point out that you have said literally nothing with this?

And even if it did mean something, I could ask: (1)Did you apply reason to the idea of skepticism? (2)Do you know what reason means? (3)Do you know what application of reason means? (4) How is belief in God not an application of reason? And so on...

The funny part is that, as I see it, if I apply your "definition" of skepticism to yourself, then you sure are not a skeptic, because in any part of your response I saw "application of reason". V.g.: "considerable degree of agreement" surely does not mean a definition (which I asked for), even less that it should be applied as if it had a "total degree of agreement" - where is the "application of reason" by which a "degree of agreement" becomes "the right definition"?; By which "application of reason" did you arrive to the conclusion that because it has a "considerable degree of agreement" means that this is the "definition" you should follow?; Which "application of reason" did you use to avoid answering the main point of my reply, i.e., what gave you (or anybody else) the certainty of the definition you chose and what/who gave you (or anybody else) the authority to proclaim WHO IS a skeptic?

I could try to respond to issues in a substantive and rational manner. But if by "substantive and rational manner" you mean accepting without "skepticism" any definition you give simply because you want it to be that way, While at the same time avoiding the points i raised, I assure it'll be really hard.
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@danieljref
written by Kritikos, July 01, 2010
The funny part is that, as I see it, if I apply your "definition" of skepticism to yourself, then you sure are not a skeptic, because in any part of your response I saw "application of reason". V.g.: "considerable degree of agreement" surely does not mean a definition (which I asked for), even less that it should be applied as if it had a "total degree of agreement" - where is the "application of reason" by which a "degree of agreement" becomes "the right definition"?; By which "application of reason" did you arrive to the conclusion that because it has a "considerable degree of agreement" means that this is the "definition" you should follow?; Which "application of reason" did you use to avoid answering the main point of my reply, i.e., what gave you (or anybody else) the certainty of the definition you chose and what/who gave you (or anybody else) the authority to proclaim WHO IS a skeptic?

Calm yourself, Daniel. The meaning of the term "skeptic" as used within the skeptical movement (as, e.g., on this comment page) is determined by the common practice within that movement. That is the point of appealing to common agreement among its adherents. Common usage is what gives meaning to a word. The right definition is the one that describes that usage. So the relevance of the appeal to agreement should be obvious to anyone who does not hold the superstitious view that definitions determine usage rather than the other way around.

Skeptics identify skepticism as the exercise of critical thinking and scientific method. More fundamentally, skepticism is the practice of making the acceptance of claims contingent on the provision of sufficient evidence for them. I believe that these characterizations of skepticism would, perhaps with some modification, be widely accepted among members of the skeptical movement. They define what we are talking about when we use the word "skepticism."

None of this, though, is relevant to the issue about Dr. Gay. The issue there is whether it is consistent with skepticism to hold, as she does, that religious beliefs, or at least her religious beliefs (whatever they may be) are "untestable," and therefore immune to skeptical criticism. Both points are under dispute: whether religious beliefs are untestable, and, even if they are, whether it is compatible with skepticism to hold untestable beliefs. These are interesting, substantive issues, on which your intemperate tirades about definition do not seem to me to shed any light.
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God of the gaps lives!
written by feldesq, July 02, 2010
Essentially Dr. Gay is arguing for the "god of the gaps." This means her god keeps moving away as the gaps are filled. She must also insist that there will always be such gaps -- to justify such a god. From a critical thinking perspective, she is working against herself. She, like Hal Bidlack, have come to her theism from a strong emotional base. This proves they are just as human as the next guy (gal). We would not wish to deny them their poit of view, but we can hardly applaud them as skeptics when they assert such a view.
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@Kriticos
written by danieljref, July 02, 2010
I thought my questions were pretty clear but since you decided to not answer any of them, I'll give you this chance, analyze what you said (although I may point out some issues you left behind) and pretend I didn't see that you turned everything around, so as to show that at some point my issue was analyzing the acceptance of Dr. Gay in a group, instead of the existence of such group and its actions.

Before I say anything, I think it would be best to sum up what I understood from what you said until now:
The term Skeptic means (or should mean) what a certain group ("skeptical movement") says (somehow) it means. There may be differences in the meaning, but nonetheless it has an identifiable core. This group only arises by the aggregation of individuals joined by their common practice of applying Skepticism (as they somehow define it). There is no authority in the group but some individuals have a "higher recognition value". Anyone can join this group as long as s/he follows the rules (somehow) set by this group. The rules must be consistenly followed. There is no prior identification, so anyone can call himself a Skeptic but is latter subjected to scrutiny to check whether that person fits those rules and, consequently, the group. This scrutiny can be done by anybody (including the self-proclaimed) and since there is no unity, there can be divergence between individuals of the Skeptical movement. If, at some point, it is somehow defined that a certain person does not follow the rules s/he will be (and should accept to be) ostracized. And this person shall remain excluded from the group (and to be called a Skeptic) until s/he repents, accepts the fault and return to following the rules.

Am I correct in my depiction? This may sound arrogant but in order to save time (and wait for the answer) and since I believe I'm correct, I'll answer my own question. YES.

If this is so, with some nips and tucks to the text I just wrote, I could simply change "Skeptic" by "christian" and "Skeptical Movement" by "Christianity" and I just described a religious group. Which is the first point I made in this post (skepticism is nothing more than another religion). So your explanation is probably a Q.E.D.

Now to other points you raised.

I can accept "common usage is what gives meaning to a word". The issue becomes: Is common usage an "application of reason"? And does common usage by a specific group give authority to this group?

Skeptics identify skepticism as the exercise of critical thinking and scientific method. More fundamentally, skepticism is the practice of making the acceptance of claims contingent on the provision of sufficient evidence for them.

You finally gave me something to work with. First question (just to clear it out): Is consistency necessary? (this looks like a big issue for you and since I didn't see it in the descritption you made...)
Second: Is there (or can there be) something that is outside the scope of "scientific method"? Or put in another way: Can science measure everything?
Third: If the previous answer is Yes, how is Skepticism applied to that "something"?
Fourth: Can a claim be true regardless of any tests?

I'll wait in order to continue the analysis of the "substantive issues" you want so much.
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written by halohms, July 02, 2010
Here is a blog concerning Bill Nye's support of Activeion woo water in which someone who is highly respected and trusted as a man of science throughout his career sold out to woo for money.

http://skepticblog.org/2010/04/22/bill-nye-selling-out-to-the-man/

The analogy is similar to Pamela Gay in that we now must question Bill's future work.

Bill tried to support his endorsement in his own site but it falls short of credible.

http://www.billnye.com/for-the-nanobubble-skeptics/

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@danieljref (part 1 of 2)
written by Kritikos, July 02, 2010
(Apparently my comment was too long to be posted in one go, so I am breaking it into two parts.)

Before I say anything, I think it would be best to sum up what I understood from what you said until now:
The term Skeptic means (or should mean) what a certain group ("skeptical movement") says (somehow) it means.

No; I explicitly said that the word has several meanings. I specifically mentioned, by way of contrast, the ancient Greek school to which the term was originally applied, as well as what I described as the most common use of the word (actually the noun "skepticism," but I think it carries over to the use of the word "skeptic"). I am talking about what the word means as used by the people who write for JREF and most of those who post on comment pages like this one, on the forum, people affiliated with the other institutions that I mentioned, and so on. More to the point, I am talking about the use of the word in the blog post on this page and the various comments that have been posted here—the use operative in the question "Can one without inconsistency be a skeptic and a theist?", which I take to be the primary issue under discussion here.
There may be differences in the meaning, but nonetheless it has an identifiable core. This group only arises by the aggregation of individuals joined by their common practice of applying Skepticism (as they somehow define it). There is no authority in the group but some individuals have a "higher recognition value".

Right.
Anyone can join this group as long as s/he follows the rules (somehow) set by this group. The rules must be consistenly followed.

I can't say whether this is accurate, because I don't know what rules you are talking about. I do not recall mentioning any.
There is no prior identification, so anyone can call himself a Skeptic but is latter subjected to scrutiny to check whether that person fits those rules and, consequently, the group. This scrutiny can be done by anybody (including the self-proclaimed) and since there is no unity, there can be divergence between individuals of the Skeptical movement.

No; setting aside your invocation of "rules," which as far as I know has no basis in anything that I said, the people in the group give a meaning to the word "skepticism," but it does not follow that only the people in the group count as skeptics. They define the word primarily as a certain epistemological attitude and practice. So whoever shares that attitude and that practice is a skeptic, regardless of whether he affiliates himself with any skeptical organization.
If, at some point, it is somehow defined that a certain person does not follow the rules s/he will be (and should accept to be) ostracized. And this person shall remain excluded from the group (and to be called a Skeptic) until s/he repents, accepts the fault and return to following the rules.

This is pure invention on your part.
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@danieljref (part 2 of 2)
written by Kritikos, July 02, 2010
If this is so, with some nips and tucks to the text I just wrote, I could simply change "Skeptic" by "christian" and "Skeptical Movement" by "Christianity" and I just described a religious group. Which is the first point I made in this post (skepticism is nothing more than another religion). So your explanation is probably a Q.E.D.

For any social group you care to name, there is a way of describing it which will also fit some religious groups. For any two entities, there is a way of describing one that will also fit the other. I am not impressed. What is the point of the exercise?
I can accept "common usage is what gives meaning to a word". The issue becomes: Is common usage an "application of reason"?

No, common usage is not an application of reason. Neither is breathing. Yet skeptics indulge in both. Wow! So what?
And does common usage by a specific group give authority to this group?

Authority in what, or about what? I just can't tell what you are talking about.
First question (just to clear it out): Is consistency necessary? (this looks like a big issue for you and since I didn't see it in the descritption you made...)

Necessary for what? I think consistency is an intellectual virtue and inconsistency a fault, if that is what you are asking.
Second: Is there (or can there be) something that is outside the scope of "scientific method"? Or put in another way: Can science measure everything?
Third: If the previous answer is Yes, how is Skepticism applied to that "something"?
Fourth: Can a claim be true regardless of any tests?

These are very interesting and difficult questions. I have thoughts about them, but no settled answers. I do not, however, see that I have to answer them in order to say what skepticism is or why your utterances on the subject have failed to show that it is a religion. It seems to me that you are trying to open a much broader discussion. I might be interested in a discussion of such issues as these with a sympathetic participant. I credit you with having set aside, for the moment, the polemical aggressiveness with which you introduced yourself into this discussion, but I am not any more interested in your thoughts than I think that you are interested in mine.
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Correction (@danieljref)
written by Kritikos, July 02, 2010
I wrote in "part 1" above:

For any social group you care to name, there is a way of describing it which will also fit some religious groups. For any two entities, there is a way of describing one that will also fit the other. I am not impressed. What is the point of the exercise?


That was the wrong response. What I ought to have said was this: I see that your point is to show that skepticism is a religion. But to show that some description fits both skepticism and Christianity (or whatever religion) does not show that skepticism is a religion, any more than showing that some description fits both my wallet and a turnip shows that my wallet is a vegetable.
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@Kriticos (1/2)
written by danieljref, July 03, 2010
Initially, I must apologize. I failed to mention that my answer had 2 different parts. The first one was making reference to the point I made. In the second, I tried to address the issue you wanted answered. You kinda mixed both, but I'll try to correct it as I go along.

The issue (for you) is if Dr. Gay is a Skeptic while believing in God. You acknowledged (again) that the word has several meanings. If it has several meanings, Dr. Gay could fit any of them. But only one of them is being used. One that has a "considerable degree of agreement". So the term Skeptic is being accepted only in the sense (somehow) defined by a group. Right? If that is right, I can't see how you do not agree with the first quotation. Could you elaborate? I only ask because the question "Can one without inconsistency be a skeptic and a theist?" is already rejecting all other meanings and using the one defined by the group.

I do not recall mentioning any.

You said (or quoted) that skepticism is (the application of reason) to any and all ideas, i.e., you have to apply reason to any and all ideas to practice skepticism; that it is a method (I can't see one without rules); that skepticism follow an epistemological rule, i.e., a belief is not permissible wherever empirical refutation is impossible (this point may've been defended by other people but looks like you side with them); you talk of an "epistemological attitude and practice" and that whoever shares the attitude and practice is a skeptic. Isn't sharing an attitude and a practice, a rule?, i.e., you have to share it to be considered a Skeptic? These are not all the rules. The point is that some rules exist.

[4th quotation]
You said that "whoever shares that attitude and that practice is a skeptic, regardless of whether he affiliates himself with any skeptical organization". But I never talked about organizations. I said group. The skeptics group. You agreed that this group only arises by the commom practice of applying skepticism. So, restating my point. If a common practice defines if someone belongs to the group (instead of an authority nominating this one as a skeptic). As long as this someone thinks he shares this practice he can call himself a skeptic. But whether if this person "truly" is a skeptic will depend on the "acceptance" of other people in the group who will analyze if he shares the practice as was defined by a "considerable degree of agreement". And since there is only a "considerable" and not "total" degree of agreement, people in the group may differ in defining if someone is a skeptic or not.

This is pure invention on your part.

Your whole point is that if Dr. Gay (in this case because of her belief) does not consistently apply skepticism, she cannot be called a skeptic, i.e., she shouldn't be accepted as a skeptic because she does not apply skepticism to God. As long as she does it, she can't be accepted. If and when she does, she can be called a skeptic. How is this invention of my part? In the post, a blog was quoted as saying Dr. Gay is not a skeptic (reasons in the blog, but regarding belief in God). PZ Meyer was quoted (in the comments) as saying don't expect those lapses from skepticism to be exempt from criticism". How is all this invention of my part?

I'll assume this was an honest mistake, because, as I said earlier, I can only go so far as long as someone is honest. After that there is no point.

there is a way of describing it which will also fit some religious groups

So you must provide the difference as to show me it isn't so.
Up until now, I was just trying to show my point. From this point on, I decided to answer your point regarding Dr. Gay and it has nothing to do in defining skepticism as a religion. So I don't think your last paragraph (part 2) is applicable to my point but is important to yours.
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@Kriticos (2/2)
written by danieljref, July 03, 2010
So what?

Well, you said skepticism is "the application of reason to any and all ideas". You seem to make a big deal about consistency and skepticism. You didn't apply reason to the meaning of the word skeptic. Do I need to paint it? Sounded like a great big deal to me.
Authority in what, or about what?

Authority in defining what a word mean, and therefore who should use it, and define what are the requisites to use it, and make this group (above everybody else in the world) the one that can say what is skepticism and who is a skeptic. Let's say, if homeopaths and astrologers get together and by a "considerable degree of agreement" use the word skeptic as to describe anybody that follow the common practice of homeopathy and astrology, would they be entitled to call anyone who thinks homeopathy and astrology is bs to not be a skeptic?
Necessary for what?

For skepticism. Should skepticism be consistently applied to any and all fields of reality? For skeptics. Should someone be called a skeptic if s/he does not consistently apply skepticism to any and all fields of reality? If someone does not apply skepticism to one aspect of reality, can s/he be called a skeptic?

If you're interested in seeing your point further analyzed I'll wait for the answers to the First, Second, Third and Fourth questions I made.
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@danieljref (for the last time, I hope)
written by Kritikos, July 03, 2010
Daniel, at this point, I don't think it likely that anyone is reading these comments besides you and me. Further, I find the dispute with you to be an utterly barren wrangling over words and trivialities. So I think you will understand my not wishing to carry it on indefinitely. For the present, however, I will reply to you on the points that seem to me important.

Your whole point is that if Dr. Gay (in this case because of her belief) does not consistently apply skepticism, she cannot be called a skeptic, i.e., she shouldn't be accepted as a skeptic because she does not apply skepticism to God. As long as she does it, she can't be accepted. If and when she does, she can be called a skeptic. How is this invention of my part?


Show me where I ever made any such point. Not where D. J. Grothe or P. Z. Meyers made such a point, but where I made it. Or let me spare you the trouble by telling you that I never made or implied any such claim. That is where you are indulging in fantasy (here).

So you must provide the difference as to show me it isn't so.


I "must" if I am interested in what you think, which I am not. I have pointed out that your argument is a non sequitur, which I should think enough on my part. In any case, I think I did what you describe when I identified the points on which your version of my position misrepresented it (part 1 of my previous two-part comment).
Well, you said skepticism is "the application of reason to any and all ideas". You seem to make a big deal about consistency and skepticism. You didn't apply reason to the meaning of the word skeptic. Do I need to paint it? Sounded like a great big deal to me.


First you were saying that common usage itself is not an application of reason, which I granted but also disparaged as a trivial observation, like saying that breathing is not an application of reason. Now you seem to be saying (though I can't be sure that I understand you) that to invoke common usage in order to establish the meaning of a term is not an exercise of reason. If that is your claim, then I find it at least pertinent, but I also find it implausible and groundless. If that is not your claim, I can't tell what your claim is.

Authority in defining what a word mean, and therefore who should use it, and define what are the requisites to use it, and make this group (above everybody else in the world) the one that can say what is skepticism and who is a skeptic. Let's say, if homeopaths and astrologers get together and by a "considerable degree of agreement" use the word skeptic as to describe anybody that follow the common practice of homeopathy and astrology, would they be entitled to call anyone who thinks homeopathy and astrology is bs to not be a skeptic?


This is getting immeasurably tedious. Look, there are these people who talk about skepticism and skeptics, and describe themselves and what they do in those terms. I have been saying that if you want to know what the words mean when they use them, you look at how they use the words, and at what they say about what they mean about the words. I cannot see how this point can be reasonably disputed, or why it should even be worth discussing, let alone arguing about. The point seems to me banal and obvious, and I can't understand why you put so much work into muddying it. If the words are used in some other sense in other contexts—as I have repeatedly granted that they are—that's fine, as long as there is no mix-up over which sense is in play in a given context. I fail to see that this business about the meaning of words sheds ANY light on the dispute over Pamela Gay, theism, and skepticism. It seems to me a completely artificial and sterile quibble that you have belabored pointlessly.

For skepticism. Should skepticism be consistently applied to any and all fields of reality? For skeptics. Should someone be called a skeptic if s/he does not consistently apply skepticism to any and all fields of reality? If someone does not apply skepticism to one aspect of reality, can s/he be called a skeptic?


I don't know. I don't have a settled position on that question. I have nowhere taken or implied a position on that question. It is not a question that I am interested in exploring with you. All that I have been trying to show is what the question is (in Grothe's post and the comments on it) and how you have repeatedly muddled it with bogus arguments about how skepticism is a religion.
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Correction
written by Kritikos, July 03, 2010
if you want to know what the words mean when they use them, you look at how they use the words, and at what they say about what they mean about the words

That should have read "by the words."
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Thanks for reply
written by Defaithed, July 05, 2010
No, I'm not looking to bounce a lapsed discussion back to life. I'm just checking back here at this late date, and want to quickly say thanks to danieljref for the response.

A little summary and commentary below. Nothing exciting, and no challenges to anyone, so if interest has waned, please ignore.

FWIW, I still have no idea whether the author (DJ Grothe), or Ms Gay, or both, would defend the point that it's all right to mix one's overall skeptical outlook with a little non-skeptical belief of any kind – in this case's specific example, belief in God. OR, whether they'd instead defend the same point but specifically with regard to the God in question, not extending the same approval to belief in (say) Reiki-powered Grey aliens. OR, whether they'd even insist that such non-skeptical belief be kept down to "a little"; maybe they're fine with a lot of it.

That was the point of my posts: wanting to know whether the discussion is only about the very specific case of Ms Gay's theism, or whether it's about the broader picture of non-skeptical beliefs in general. If the answer was in the article or comments, I missed it.

But anyway. Your reply to me does seem to suggest that for you, "God" belief and "psychic Thetan" belief are categorically different – the latter, you say, "inherently carries with it the notion that it cannot be real", whereas the "concept of God does not carry this unreal notion (at least as it is originally intended)".

As you note, yes, that would depend on what one understands the term "God" to mean – in this case, what Ms Gay, or those applauding her stance, would take it to mean. For my part, I still see the unfortunate scene of a "skeptic" backing herself into a corner. To wit:

If "God" follows one of those vague definitions like "God is my name for the universe... for love... for order...", then God becomes just a rather meaningless name for things we all believe in and already have serviceable, non-controversial words for, and the whole discussion becomes a dull waste of time.

Whereas if "God" is defined as the specific, magical Heaven-being who condemned the eating of shrimp and made all kinds of rules regarding foreskins and the proper conduct of genitals, then belief in that God is not one whit more sensible than belief in psychic Thetans atop astral unicorns. Sure, one's entitled to happily believe in such things, but it sure is silly.

Maybe a more defensible belief lies somewhere between those extremes. I'll have to leave it to believers to spell that out.

Re the question, "Who said Skepticism is a rock hard concept that should be followed in everything pertaining reality?":

Not I. I would only suggest that we follow the path of honesty, as well as we can. When a person (whether labeled "skeptic" or not) reveals a belief that is most decidedly not skeptical, it's quite all right to respond with, "That particularly belief is not skeptical". It's an honest thing to say. To which the believer might respond, "I know it's not skeptical, but I choose to believe it anyway". That itself carries a welcome bit of honesty (as opposed to the "No, my theism is based on hard facts!" sputtering that one hears too often). After which... well, where do we go from there? Maybe "All right then! Let's go have beers!" : )

Final paragraph: "On a side and final note, I found it very offensive what the author said (and you quoted - "...completely consistent in her skepticism"). He is simply saying she can only take such stance because she is a double-standard hypocrite. So, for me, here is another skeptic judging someone because she doesn't "fit the rules" of his group."

Sorry, I don't at all follow the references or the source of any offense... but that's fine, let's move on.

Again, no intent here to keep a quieted discussion going; part of my writing is to help myself hash things out in my head. Thanks again for the earlier replies.
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Supernatural being is not testable
written by wdunlap, July 06, 2010
Kenhamer says:
"To me that seems like the essential characteristic of whatever the opposite of skepticism is. (Credulity?) You can take any allegedly testable belief or claim, add in some industrial strength woo, and then claim it's untestable. If you claim that fairys, homeopathy, leprachauns, eskimos and elves cannot be detected by any human means, then by the same logic you can then justify a belief in them, and claim they are beyond the reach of skepticism, or science. It's just a rationalization of belief in a specific kind of woo."

Things have really two explainations how they came about. Matter appeared like magic from nothing and exploded in a big bang or a creator was necessary. Since there is no cause available when you have nothing, a creator tends to seem like a real possibility. Also, the Anthropic Principle states that there are 4 constants that have an extremely narrow range or life could not exist. If the gravitational constant is too strong, the universe would have collapsed shortly after the big bang, if too weak, exploding matter would continue to spread out too fast for planets to form. If the strong nuclear force were too strong, atoms would be too tightly held together and no compounds could be formed. If too weak, atoms would soon break apart. The point is that these constants have such a close tolerance that it is unlikely that they could come about by chance. In that case, it again appears that a creator is necessary.
You state that a creator is "woo". To me that is not an answer. All you are doing, like so many others here, is mouthing one of Randi's favorite words. Time to thing for yourself. I agree with a lot of things Randi states or I wouldn't be here, but I disagree with many things he says too. BTW, please explain how science can prove or disprove a creator. You can't. Science is only really designed to test material things. Even what I said above is not proof, but it is a reasonable hypothesis.
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Ouch. Where to begin?
written by DataJack, July 06, 2010
wdunlap said:
"Things have really two explainations how they came about. Matter appeared like magic from nothing and exploded in a big bang or a creator was necessary. Since there is no cause available when you have nothing, a creator tends to seem like a real possibility."

This is a false dichotomy. Just because one's understanding requires a "first cause", that doesn't mean it was a "creator". And it certainly doesn't mean it is the god of the bible. It could have been an infinite and eternal universe generator (IaEUG). That is just as likely as a sentient god; there is equal evidence for both. Therefore, it is time to invoke the skeptic's best phrase, "We don't know...yet".

Then said:
"Also, the Anthropic Principle states that there are 4 constants that have an extremely narrow range or life could not exist. If the gravitational constant is too strong, the universe would have collapsed shortly after the big bang, if too weak, exploding matter would continue to spread out too fast for planets to form. If the strong nuclear force were too strong, atoms would be too tightly held together and no compounds could be formed. If too weak, atoms would soon break apart."

If these constants didn't permit matter, and subsequently sentient life, then we wouldn't be here to notice. If my IaEUG were the answer, an infinite amount of universes would be generated, some that can have matter and life, some that can't. A great answer to this is "If our universe didn't permit us to observe it, we wouldn't be here to do so."

Then said:
"The point is that these constants have such a close tolerance that it is unlikely that they could come about by chance. In that case, it again appears that a creator is necessary."

Arguments against chance are not really arguments. If chance didn't create the universe the way it did, then we wouldn't be here to notice it. Supposing a sentient creator because odds are against something is sloppy thinking.

Then said:
"You state that a creator is "woo". To me that is not an answer. All you are doing, like so many others here, is mouthing one of Randi's favorite words. Time to thing for yourself. I agree with a lot of things Randi states or I wouldn't be here, but I disagree with many things he says too."

"Woo" means something believed without evidence (or not believed despite evidence). There is no evidence for gods or sentient creators, therefore it is, by definition, "Woo".

Then said:
"BTW, please explain how science can prove or disprove a creator. You can't."

That's not how science works. If there is no evidence for something, it is safe to assume it doesn't exist. If you posit something exists, the onus is on you to provide evidence. Once cannot prove unicorns don't exist. That is not reason to believe in them.

Then said:
"Science is only really designed to test material things."

That is because material things are the only things that exist. If something is not material, and doesn't interact with the material world, it is the same as not existing. If it is immaterial and does interact with he material world, it can be scientifically tested. I suppose you could say it is immaterial, can interact with the universe, but is hiding so there will never be evidence. But that is stupid, and also is about the same as not existing.

Then said:
"Even what I said above is not proof, but it is a reasonable hypothesis."

No, it is a hypothesis, but it is in no way reasonable. It doesn't present mechanisms to explain anything, it is not falsifiable, no experiment or observation could support it or refute it. "God of the gaps" is a terrible argument. It is time once again to invoke "We don't know...yet". That is the only honest answer to the origins of the universe for now. It is lazy to invoke imaginary beings to fill gaps in knowledge. That way lies intellectual stagnation.

DataJack
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lying for jesus
written by latsot, July 06, 2010
Oh MR SCIENCE:

latsot gives us "I'm not saying being wrong about one thing makes you wrong about everything... unless you're wrong about religion, in which case you are."


Oh dear. I didn't say that now did I? Let's be tedious about this since you are determined to be a dick. Where precisely did I say that?
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written by aob, July 06, 2010
Regarding the relationship between skepticism and atheism, a proper analogy might be that a vegetarian doesn't eat red meat because vegetarians don't eat any meat. However, just giving up red meat (while perhaps still eating other meats) does not make you a vegetarian. The red meat is atheism, and the vegetarianism is skepticism.

Intellectually honest skeptics don't believe in gods because skeptics don't believe in anything for which there is a complete lack of evidence. However, simply not believing in gods does not make one a skeptic.
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Undermining Science
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 07, 2010
There is no reason to criticize theist skeptics unless the topic is their theism. But, one runs the risk of being hypocritical and undermining scientific principles if one grants special exceptions to rational thinking when it comes to certain popular god beliefs. Ask yourself how you would view Ms Gay if her god belief was certainty that Pe'le controlled volcanic eruptions on Hawaii.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 07, 2010
Supernatural being is not testable written by wdunlap, July 06, 2010

That depends on how you ask the question. If you start (erroneously) with the conclusion, "gods exist, prove they don't", then of course you cannot test that question. But if instead you ask, "where does the evidence lead", it is clear the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion, god beliefs are mythical beliefs humans invented. In addition, the hypothesis, god beliefs originated because real gods interacted with people, cannot be supported. If you can conclude, Zeus is a mythical being, you can conclude, the pattern is also clear that all gods are mythical beings. After all, have we deciphered the genomes of all life on the planet? No, but that doesn't stop us from rationally concluding, all life on Earth has its genetic blueprint.

Personally, I find the "untestable" argument to be an excuse for sidestepping politically sensitive subjects like dogmatic god beliefs. It's true one is not likely to gain anything by challenging all god beliefs all the time. Look at the main argument in this discussion, "let's not offend theists who are otherwise rational thinkers". Can't we just address the issue as one of politeness and not offending people, regardless of the imperfect rationalism of the individual? Who among us is the true skeptic? I hope to be polite toward all irrational thinking. I don't always succeed, but I mean to.

But why must we make a unique exception by sidestepping certain popular god beliefs lest we be labeled intolerant atheists as if that was different from intolerant rationalists? I make no greater apology for calling god beliefs irrational than I make for calling homeopathy irrational. I'm sorry if god dogma is an otherwise rational thinker's problem, but the god belief is the problem. My atheism is not the problem.

The issue I have here is allowing a hypocritical exception for certain god beliefs. We fabricate a category, "faith based beliefs", as if there is some aspect of the Universe evidence doesn't apply. We claim one "can't test gods beliefs" when with everything else we follow the evidence to the conclusion, we don't expect to fit the evidence to the conclusion. It's rare to think about the evidence of how god beliefs developed and what they represent (myths, not real gods) when we are doling out the rational thinking passes to theists who can't see they've been indoctrinated.

One can be polite and kind without special hypocritical exceptions that undermine science and rational skepticism.
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written by William, July 08, 2010
Ginger-
You should recognize the flaw in your argument. Just because 1 god is mythical doesn't mean all gods are mythical. That's a fallacy that applies to ANY argument. It may be that the evidence "overwhelmingly supports the conclusion", but the final logical step cannot be confirmed.

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", as I once heard Carl Sagan repeat. Now, if you want to start proving that all gods are mythical, you go down the road of trying to prove the negative.

I make no claim that my belief in God is correct. I admit the possibility that I may be wrong (as does Pamela Gay). I also freely admit there are other beliefs out there--some contradictory to my Christian education. When I see that, I try to understand their beliefs and see how it fits in with my observations of the world. I accept their beliefs as theirs and try not to criticize them (i.e., not calling them "delusional", "misguided", "damned for eternity", etc.). It's called tolerance.
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written by wdunlap, July 08, 2010
DataJack said:
"This is a false dichotomy. Just because one's understaning requires a "first cause", that doesn't mean it was a "creator".And it certainly doesn't mean it is the god of the bible. It could have been an infinte and eternal universe generator (IaEUG). That is just as likiely as a sentient god; there is equal evidence for both. Therefore,it is time to invoke the skeptic's best phrase, "We don't know..yet"."

Why is my statement false? I gave you valid reason why a creator may be a necessity. For matter to come from nothing you need a cause and when there is nothing, a cause cannot exist. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that a supernatural being would then be required. You said it certainly doesn't mean it is the god of the bible. I never suggested that. In fact, though I was raised a Christian, volumes of research has proven to me that the Bible was man-made and not God inspired. The description of the God in the Bible is nothing more than one of many attempts to describe what a god would be like if it existed. If a God exits, and I think it is a possibilty, no on could even begin to comprehend what this would be like. It certainly wouldn't be like that petty god described in the Old Testament of the Bible. I agree that we don't know yet, but you seemed to be indicating a certainty on your par that a god or creator doesn't exist. I am an agnostic, so I admit that I do not know the answer, but that doesn't stop me from using reason which has caused me to lean toward theism. The definition of an atheist is one who states there is not god or creator. Since existence of nonexistence of a god or creator cannot be proven, I feel that the atheists, like the theist, are both basing their argument on FAITH.


"If these constants didn't permit matter, and subsequently sentient life, the we would be here not notice."

Ah, but we are here, aren't we? Therefore, I stand by my argument that, since these constants must all be in an extremely narrow range, the possible need for a creator is a valid argument.

"Arguments against chance are not really arguments. If chance didn't create the universe the way it did, then we wouldn't be here to notice it. Supposing a sentient creator because odds are against something is sloppy thinking".

How is this sloppy thinking? If somthing is so astronomically against chance then a creator is a valid possibilityt. That said, perhaps it could have been dumpb luck, but suggesting that could be construed as "sloppy thinking".

I am quite awae what Randi means by Woo. The reason I brought it up, is that so many here use the terminology of the master, Randi, thinking it adds credence to their argument. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't. Every time someon uses the word woo, my eyes glaze over because it simply come across as someone who is acting like a sheep and not thinking themselves.

"That's not how science works. If there is no evidence for something, it is safe to assume it doesn't exist."

I strongly disagree. Just because science is not able to detect a supernatural being, doesnot necessarily mean it doesn't exist.

"No, it is a hypothesis, but it is in no way reasonable. It doesn't present mechanisms to explain anything, it is not falsifiable, no experiment or observation could support it or refute it. "God of the gaps" is a terrible argument. It is time once again to invoke "We don't know..yet". That is the only honest answer to the origins of the universe for now. It is lazy to invoke imaginary beings to fill gaps in knowledge. That way lies intellectual stagnation."

According to Webster's dictionary, Hypothes implies insufficient evidence to provide mor than a tentative expanation. That is what I am doing.

Being an agnostic, I admit that we don't know yet, but that is no reason to sit on my duff and not try to come up with a possible reasoned explanation. And, note that I did not say "oh we can't explain it, it must be God". I gave a reasoned explanation why I think a creator is necessary. To me, saying we don't know yet is what you refer to as being lazy and leads to intellectual stagnation. I.E., saying we don't know and the automatically writing off a creator as possiblity can lead to stagnation even though we can come up with reasons why a creator may be a necessity. Science is a wonderful tool, but it is not the end all be all.
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written by wdunlap, July 08, 2010
Reply to skeptic Ginger

I agree that the descriptions of various gods are just man's attempt to explain what these god or gods, if the exist, would be like. I submit to you that, if a creator exists, then it would be far beyond what anyone could imagine.

One can look back and see that when there were thing that were not understood, a god would be given as a reason such as a god dragging a burning chariot across the sky. Once science found an explanation, this god disappeared. My reasoning still suggest the necessitiy of a creator. Science may one day prove me wrong, but if I am right, then science will fail here.
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written by wdunlap, July 08, 2010
DataJack,
I tried several times to reply to your post, but for some reason it hasn't appeared here yet.
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written by Skeptigirl, July 08, 2010
written by William, July 08, 2010
Ginger-
You should recognize the flaw in your argument. Just because 1 god is mythical doesn't mean all gods are mythical. That's a fallacy that applies to ANY argument. It may be that the evidence "overwhelmingly supports the conclusion", but the final logical step cannot be confirmed.

You make the standard argument, but you ignored that I addressed the standard argument in my comments.

You can ask the question 2 different ways. Do gods exist? Or, what best explains god beliefs, real gods or myth?

The only reason to ask the question, do gods exist, is if you accept that 'belief' is evidence. Just because people believe in homeopathy is not 'evidence' homeopathy is real. You can make a scientific process semantic argument, one cannot prove gods don't exist. Would you make the same scientific process semantic argument that unless you test every single homeopathy dilution, you cannot prove homeopathy is not effective?

My complaint here is the double standard applied to the god question that skeptics don't apply to other scientific questions. You don't start with the conclusion that because people believe in homeopathy the question should be, prove it doesn't work.

In addition, the scientific process doesn't seek proof, it seeks the best explanation supported by the evidence. Before plate tectonics were discovered, it was a 'fact' the Earth's crust was one piece. In retrospect that 'fact' was wrong. But we rightfully continue to operate on our working scientific 'facts', including the new 'fact' the Earth's crust consists of moving plates.

There is nothing in the scientific process that requires adding the caveat, you cannot prove something, to everything we accept as 'fact'. It's a given in science that new evidence can always be discovered which challenges the current conclusions which have the status of 'facts' like plate tectonics. That given does not prevent us from drawing scientific conclusions that certain evidence is overwhelming enough to be considered a fact unless something new is unexpectedly discovered.

Yet you have some skeptics again applying a double standard to god beliefs, demanding one accept the possibility gods exist because one cannot prove they don't. There is no valid reason for such a hypocritical approach to god beliefs. Follow the evidence to the conclusion, don't try to fit the evidence to the predawn conclusion, gods might exist. If you ask the right question, what best explains god beliefs, you can honestly evaluate the evidence.

I take from your answer that you don't want to ask the right question. You don't want the evidence to get in the way of your religious indoctrination. You choose to apply a double standard to god beliefs. How many dilutions of homeopathic mixtures do you need to test to draw the conclusion, homeopathy is bunk? How many cells do you need to find genetic material in to draw the conclusion all life on Earth reproduces via DNA or RNA blueprints? How many objects do you need to drop off a building to draw the conclusion gravity will make the next object also fall?

We have overwhelming evidence people made up god myths as far back as the historical record goes. There is no evidence any real gods ever interacted with people. Your rationale that you can maintain your god belief because one cannot prove there are no gods in the Universe is a hypocritical scientific argument that applies a double standard to god beliefs you are not applying to other scientific questions. I don't care that you want to maintain your god belief. But I do care that you want to make a scientific argument for your belief. Because in order to make such an argument, you have to apply a hypocritical double standard.
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@ wdunlap
written by Skeptigirl, July 08, 2010
You've provided your own argument against your argument:
One can look back and see that when there were thing that were not understood, a god would be given as a reason such as a god dragging a burning chariot across the sky. Once science found an explanation, this god disappeared.

Science hasn't failed yet. But "god did it" as an explanation has failed again and again.
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written by William, July 09, 2010
Skeptigirl:
I take from your answer that you don't want to ask the right question. You don't want the evidence to get in the way of your religious indoctrination.


I ask questions all the time. I WANT new evidence. I also find that the evidence so far doesn't get in the way of my belief. For example, I accept evolution as fact. I never claim my belief as evidence, and I admitted that earlier. My religious indoctrination told me too much of the how that goes against the scientific evidence we now have. So far, nothing in science has eliminated the possibility that my God is real. (I could get into a rather lengthy explanation of this. Suffice to say, my God is a more universal god than the ones taught by religious institutions.)

Certain people in this thread will criticize and put down those who have a belief in God or a god. Even though, as pointed out, that belief does not impede one's skepticism.
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written by wdunlap, July 09, 2010
Skeptigirl,
No, I am not arguing against my argument, only the ancient reasoning for gods. In my case, I feel I have a fairly solid argument why the necessity for a creator is possible. Just because other creator hypothesis has failed doesn't automatically make my argument invalid.

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written by wdunlap, July 09, 2010
skeptigirl,
So long as there are valid arguments for a creator, which I feel I have, you cannot outright dismiss it. There are two possibilities. One,matter appeared like magic out of nothing without a cause and exploded into the big bang, or two,a supernatural being was required since you cannot produce matter without a cause and you cannot get a cause out of nothing. Also, the antropic princple indicates that a creator may be a necessity because the odds of constants for 4 forces have an extremly narrow range for life to exist. Therefore, for someone to state that there is no creator when they have no proof would have to be basing this belief on FAITH.
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written by Skeptic Ginger (aka Skeptigirl, sorry, I've forgotten to correct the name a couple times), July 09, 2010
written by William, July 09, 2010
...So far, nothing in science has eliminated the possibility that my God is real. (I could get into a rather lengthy explanation of this. Suffice to say, my God is a more universal god than the ones taught by religious institutions.)
You have not addressed the evidence that supports the conclusion your god, like all other gods, is a mythical being. You are ignoring the evidence all gods are mythical beings and choosing to maintain your god belief based on the argument one cannot prove there are no gods. I can't prove there are no Leprechauns either, but why should I need to?

written by William
Certain people in this thread will criticize and put down those who have a belief in God or a god. Even though, as pointed out, that belief does not impede one's skepticism.
I understand your complaint, but keep in mind that criticizing or challenging a person's beliefs is not the same as criticizing the person. I don't object to the key point of the thread that we should be able to accept skeptics who also believe in a god. Like I said, I doubt any of us are 'true skeptics'.

And yet, if I as a skeptic challenge an individual's god belief, I've somehow stepped into the territory of impolite criticism. If I make a statement that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion god beliefs are irrational, I become an intolerant atheist, a proselytizer. If I said the same thing about homeopathy would I be proselytizing?

It's fine if we discuss the mythical nature of god beliefs as long as we sidestep the elephant in the room. That elephant is the double standard some skeptics apply to god beliefs.

Here are the points I think are worth making:

1) Treating god beliefs differently than we treat other unsupportable claims is a double standard.
2) Allowing a double standard for god beliefs makes one look hypocritical when teaching or promoting critical thinking skills and the scientific process.
3) Defining a separate category of 'faith based beliefs' and claiming god beliefs satisfy some 'spiritual need' that an evidence based world view does not satisfy, is an arbitrarily manufactured rationale that serves the political purpose of sidestepping this skeptical blind spot.

Skeptics shouldn't be personally criticized solely for their god beliefs. But by the same token, skeptics should acknowledge god beliefs are irrational and not try to create a special category for god myths as if there really was a bifurcated Universe with a rational/irrational reality that is separate from the god belief/spiritual world. You may have emotional needs scientific curiosity doesn't satisfy. But such emotional needs do not equate to a need for magical and/or irrational thinking. There is nothing special about god beliefs other than the fact some of the most rational thinkers can't see the irrationality of such beliefs.
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written by Skeptic Ginger (aka Skeptigirl, sorry, I've forgotten to correct the name a couple times), July 09, 2010
written by wdunlap, July 09, 2010
skeptigirl,
So long as there are valid arguments for a creator, which I feel I have, you cannot outright dismiss it.
Yes I can. I can dismiss the existence of gods because the evidence supports the conclusion, gods are mythical beings created entirely within human imagination.


written by wdunlap
There are two possibilities. One,matter appeared like magic out of nothing without a cause and exploded into the big bang, or two,a supernatural being was required since you cannot produce matter without a cause and you cannot get a cause out of nothing.
"God did it" is no more satisfactory an answer than "we don't know" because all the "God did it" answer does is add an unnecessary layer. Great, "God did it". Where did God come from?


written by wdunlap
Also, the antropic princple indicates that a creator may be a necessity because the odds of constants for 4 forces have an extremly narrow range for life to exist. Therefore, for someone to state that there is no creator when they have no proof would have to be basing this belief on FAITH.
The claim one needs a god to explain something we have no current explanation for has been debunked again and again as evidence has provided explanations.

Science provides an explanation: Tremendous successes.
"God did it" turns out to be the explanation: No evidence this is correct yet.
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written by wdunlap, July 09, 2010
Skeptic Ginger stated:

"Yes I can. I can dismiss the existence of gods because the evidence supports the conclusion, gods are mythical beings created entirely within human imagination"

Yes, the idea of what a god or creator would be like is based on human imagination. I will grant you that because no one can know what a creator would be like, but I have given you valid arguments why I feel a creator was necessary, but you are so blinded by your self righteous belief that you are right that you will not entertain anyone elses reasoning, no matter how valid it might be.

""God did it" is no more satisfactory an answer than "we don't know" because all the "God did it" answer does is add an unnecessary layer. Great, "God did it". Where did God come from? "

I am an agnostic first which means I do not know whether or not a creator exist, but that doesn't stop me from reasoning whether or not a creator is necessary. You are stating that I should simply sit back on my duff and say, "I don't know". But since I have found valid reasons that a creator could be possible I simple refuse to sit back on my duff and say I don't know when I feel I have found possible evidence that one is necessary. The falacy of your argument that things we felt in the past were due to a god have since been proven scientifically is that that does not mean you can extrapolate that into the future for everything science doesn't know now. So long as you cannot disprove a creator, you must fall back on FAITH which is no proof at all. Science is wonderful, but it is not the end all, be all. I believe that is the trap you have fallen into.
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written by wdunlap, July 09, 2010
"Ask yourself how you would view Ms Gay if her god belief was certainty that Pe'le controlled volcanic eruptions on Hawaii. "

Your question is mute since Ms Gay did not make any such statement. All you are doing is shamelessly trying to slant what she really said in order to promote your agenda that a creater doesn't exist. You can't base your belief on proof so you base it on blind FAITH in science. Like I said, science is great, but it isn't the be all, end all that you would like us all to think.
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written by William, July 09, 2010
SkeptiGirl:
.. evidence all gods are mythical beings...


What evidence? As I have pointed out, you can't prove that ALL gods are mythical, as that attempts to prove the negative.

I also try to be consistent in my skepticism, with no double standard on my part. If anyone still thinks I am, perhaps there are some points I haven't made.
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Coming back from a trip...
written by danieljref, July 09, 2010
@Kritikos

Show me where I ever made any such point

Considering I was stating that skeptics have certain rules and say that a person that does not follow the rules is NOT a skeptic, your first comment directed to me intended to clarify that the people I quoted were invoking an epistemological rule which was not being followed by Dr. Gay and for that reason were arguing she could not be called a skeptic. This fits perfectly with what I said. Side point: You were just an example of why it wasn't pure invention. DJ and PZ were valid to show my point. I never intended to point it directly to you. Seems to me that you're the one indulging in fantasy (as if I was trying to analyze your comments instead of showing evidence for mine). I was just pointing the basis of what I said. You may even not agree with me, but that is very different than pure invention.
I "must" if I am interested in what you think, which I am not.

I was just looking for a clarification. You said any social group could be described as a religion. Well, if you really believe this, than you have to agree with me: skepticism is a religion. But, since your comment point to the direction that skepticism is not a religion, I wanted you to explain what are the differences between the two. You asked for a substantive discussion, I was just trying to not misrepresent your understanding of the situation, but if you're not interested in what I think... (which bears the question: Then why do you mentioned "a substantive discussion" to begin with?)
First you were saying that common usage itself is not an application of reason...

In this part you left out the second most important thing (to me) of the definition you adopted "to any and all ideas". You said skepticism is the application of reason to any and all ideas. Since you agreed that are somethings which are not the application of reason, looks like you're coming to the conclusion that your definition is wrong...
I fail to see that this business about the meaning of words sheds ANY light on the dispute over Pamela Gay, theism, and skepticism.

I'm not talking about meaning of words per se. Let me give you a clear example. There is a definition for the term catholic (not the point to express it right now). In theory, I could take the definition and see if someone fits it. If yes: then that person is a catholic. If not: the s/he isn't. Problem: The Catholic Church as the foundation of the catholic faith can excommunicate people. So even if you fit the definition, it is not enough. There is an entity that somehow confirms it. Can skeptics also do this?
All that I have been trying to show is what the question is

All you've been trying to do is show me what I'm saying in different words. So what if people are analyzing epistemological rules. Catholics, muslims, jews also follow an epistemological rule. If you do not believe in God you can't be catholic/muslim/jew. The fact that there is or isn't an epistemological rule doesn't change my point: Skepticism is a religion. Based on faith (although different), rules (although different) and intolerance/prejudice (although different). Like all religions. Your argument is a moo point (if there ever was one). But it is hard to get into explanations when you either refuse to answer questions or state that they are really though and you have no clear answer about them.
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@Defaithed
written by danieljref, July 09, 2010
Yes, the definition of God will somehow settle the question. It could be said that God is the necessary being. Although it may become a little more "deep" to understand it. If you want, I can try. This is just to show that it's not either between "my name for" and "magical heaven being", even though I have to point out that I've seen some skeptics in trying to rule out God they tend to describe it.

The idea behind the question "rock hard concept" is just to show that, maybe God is completely outside skepticism pretenses, so it's pointless to try and fit God into skepticism. It would be like saying that when it comes to politics you're a vegetarian.
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written by Skeptic Ginger (formerly Skeptigirl), July 09, 2010
written by wdunlap, July 09, 2010
"Ask yourself how you would view Ms Gay if her god belief was certainty that Pe'le controlled volcanic eruptions on Hawaii. "

Your question is mute since Ms Gay did not make any such statement. All you are doing is shamelessly trying to slant what she really said in order to promote your agenda that a creater doesn't exist. You can't base your belief on proof so you base it on blind FAITH in science. Like I said, science is great, but it isn't the be all, end all that you would like us all to think.
My agenda is promoting rational critical thinking and science. It's not about the specific conclusions as long as they are supportable conclusions.

There was a point to asking one to hypothetically substitute Pe'le vs a Deist god or a Christian god. I'm illustrating the double standard applied to some god beliefs that is not applied to other equally unsupportable god beliefs.

Equating faith based beliefs to science is not a rational skeptic position. That's been addressed in past Swift articles.
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written by Skeptic Ginger (formerly Skeptigirl), July 09, 2010
written by William, July 09, 2010
SkeptiGirl:
.. evidence all gods are mythical beings...

What evidence? As I have pointed out, you can't prove that ALL gods are mythical, as that attempts to prove the negative.
I also try to be consistent in my skepticism, with no double standard on my part. If anyone still thinks I am, perhaps there are some points I haven't made.
How many god beliefs do we need to determine are myths before we can conclude there is a pattern here?
Do you deny the extensive evidence that anthropologists have compiled over the years on the subject of human god myths? Have you heard of the Cargo Cults which allowed us to observe in recent times, the development of a god myth?

You claim you care about the evidence. You state you would look at the evidence if there was any. Then you dismiss out of hand the evidence I have proposed.

Put your "you can't prove it" aside for a minute. Put aside my conclusion, all gods are mythical beings, and your conclusion, you have reason to believe in a god for a minute. Look at the evidence of humans inventing god myths on it's own merits, divorced from your complaint about the conclusions I've drawn from this evidence.

I give you Greek gods, Native American gods, Roman gods, Australian aboriginal gods, Hindu gods, Mayan, Aztec and Incan gods, Egyptian gods, Celtic gods, Norse gods, Babylonian gods, African gods, Pacific Island gods... Name the culture and you can find numerous god myths that each culture developed. You can look back in history for ancient gods and to current peoples for current god beliefs in each culture.

Were Thor, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl and Pe'le real gods or mythical gods?

At a minimum you should at least stop claiming there is no evidence that humans have over time invented thousands of god myths.

But that does leave us with the double standard I am pointing out. If you had an equal amount of evidence that life replicates using genetic blueprints, would you say that you cannot draw a conclusion about the genetic basis of lifeforms because you can't prove there are no exceptions? No. You draw a conclusion that all life is going to follow the pattern you have established occurs through overwhelming evidence. If an exception turns up, you can adapt your 'facts' regarding the role of genetics in reproduction. But in the meantime, you can indeed draw a conclusion about all life on Earth based on the pattern you have established.

Claiming one needs to prove there are no exceptions would be applying a double standard to genetic evidence that you don't apply to numerous other scientific conclusions.

By all means, keep your god belief. Just admit it is irrational and quit trying to support it by applying a double standard to the lack of scientific evidence supporting your belief.
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written by Skeptic Ginger (formerly Skeptigirl), July 09, 2010
written by danieljref, July 09, 2010.....
The idea behind the question "rock hard concept" is just to show that, maybe God is completely outside skepticism pretenses, so it's pointless to try and fit God into skepticism. It would be like saying that when it comes to politics you're a vegetarian.
Rational thinking is successful, magical thinking such as you are proposing is unsuccessful. That suggests what you are claiming is nonsense.
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written by latsot, July 09, 2010
William:

I make no claim that my belief in God is correct. I admit the possibility that I may be wrong (as does Pamela Gay). I also freely admit there are other beliefs out there--some contradictory to my Christian education. When I see that, I try to understand their beliefs and see how it fits in with my observations of the world. I accept their beliefs as theirs and try not to criticize them (i.e., not calling them "delusional", "misguided", "damned for eternity", etc.). It's called tolerance.


No, it isn't called 'tolerance'. It's called 'special pleading'. I tolerate people's religious beliefs, but I don't have to keep silent about it for fear of offending someone. I don't have the goal of offending people when I criticise their beliefs, but I don't care in the slightest if they happen to be offended anyway. Nobody has the right to not be offended and yet this is the right that very many religious people demand. They claim their religious views are somehow off-limits, simply because they say so and seem genuinely amazed when other people don't see it that way.

Demanding respect for unsupported beliefs solely on the basis that they are religious beliefs is deeply irrational and I'll have no part of it. People who believe in any kind of god are (subject to some evidence turning up) deluded and there isn't the slightest reason why we shouldn't tell them so.

What evidence? As I have pointed out, you can't prove that ALL gods are mythical, as that attempts to prove the negative.


The default position when one cannot prove something doesn't exist is *not* to assume without evidence that it does. This is breathtakingly irrational. The default position should instead be to provisionally assume that it doesn't exist, subject to some evidence turning up. Why? Because there are infinitely more things that don't exist than things that do, so it doesn't make sense to assert that any particular thing-you-have-no-evidence-for-but-can't-disprove is true.

This should be the case whether or not you are a skeptic. However, a skeptic would go further in requiring some evidence before believing something. Or, more accurately, a skeptic would require a more rigourous standard of evidence, discounting things like authority and personal revelation.

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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Skepti Ginger said:
"My agenda is promoting rational critical thinking and science. It's not about the specific conclusions as long as they are supportable conclusions."

My agenda is also promoting rational critical thinking. I have presented valid arguments why a creator might be necessary. I have stated that, if this creator exists, it would be far beyond what anyone could imagine. You keep falling back on the argument that religious concepts of a god has fallen one by one. That is true, but it still doesn't address the fact that a creator, if it exists, may have chosen not to make itself known. You state that you wish to promote rational thought, but it appears that your thinking is one sided. You are hung up on one possible view and have fallen into the trap that your view is the only rational one and that all others are, therefore, irrational. I submit that it is difficult to have rational thought when you are hampered by wearing blinders.

"Equating faith based beliefs to science is not a rational skeptic position. That's been addressed in past Swift articles."

What I was trying to get across is that I have presented valid arguments that a creator might be necessary and that you have no evidence to counteract my argument, yet you state out and out that belief in the existence of a creator is irrational. So long as you have no evidence that this creator doesn't exist, you must base your belief on faith.
You refer to past Swift articles. I haven't read them, but if you can relay them to me, I would like to see them.
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Still Not Getting It
written by DataJack, July 10, 2010
wdunlap said:
"Why is my statement false? I gave you valid reason why a creator may be a necessity. For matter to come from nothing you need a cause and when there is nothing, a cause cannot exist. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that a supernatural being would then be required."

I didn't say your statement was false; I said you were using a false dichotomy. That means "if "A" isn't true, then "B" must be". That totally discounts "C". You said matter cannot come from nothing, therefore a supernatural cause is reasonable. This is false. I gave you another possibility ("C"), an infinite, eternal, non-sentient universe generator. There is just as much evidence for that as there is for a god (none). There are many other evidence-free alternative origins we can posit, therefore knocking down your strawman ("matter popped into existence without cause") does not support your pet proposal ("magic guy did it"). It is NEVER reasonable to propose an evidence-free hypothesis.

Then you said:
"Since existence of nonexistence of a god or creator cannot be proven, I feel that the atheists, like the theist, are both basing their argument on FAITH."

This is wrong. I have no faith whatsoever when I speak of unicorns not existing, even though I haven't checked everywhere. We do not speak of "proof" in science, that's for maths. In science, we speak of evidence. There is no evidence for a creator god.

Then you said:
"Ah, but we are here, aren't we? Therefore, I stand by my argument that, since these constants must all be in an extremely narrow range, the possible need for a creator is a valid argument."

This is another logical fallacy, "argument from incredulity". You don't understand how it can be that way, therefore, it cannot be.

Then you said:
"How is this sloppy thinking? If somthing is so astronomically against chance then a creator is a valid possibilityt. That said, perhaps it could have been dumpb luck, but suggesting that could be construed as "sloppy thinking"."

No, you are still missing the point. To posit something unprovable to explain something unlikely is sloppy thinking. If it seems unlikely to you, look further; do not give up and say "therefore god did it". Also, you are misunderstanding probability. Over a lot of time and a lot of space, unlikely things are certain to happen. We don't know how many universes are or have been created. There is no reason to believe the answer is one. If it is a LOT more than one, then it is very likely our universe would be set up the way it is.
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Still Not Getting It, Pt II
written by DataJack, July 10, 2010
Reply to wdunlap, continued:

I said:
"That's not how science works. If there is no evidence for something, it is safe to assume it doesn't exist."

Then you said:
"I strongly disagree. Just because science is not able to detect a supernatural being, doesnot necessarily mean it doesn't exist."

This is completely, totally, irrational thinking. "Science" is not a tool in our detection kit. It is the detection kit. It's all there is; it the term we use to describe how we investigate our world. You are saying, "just because we cannot see something with our eyes, doesn't mean we cannot see it at all". Our eyes are what we use to see. Science is what we use to describe our world. To say there are "things beyond science" is to say "I don't understand science".

I said:
"No, it is a hypothesis, but it is in no way reasonable. It doesn't present mechanisms to explain anything, it is not falsifiable, no experiment or observation could support it or refute it. "God of the gaps" is a terrible argument. It is time once again to invoke "We don't know..yet". That is the only honest answer to the origins of the universe for now. It is lazy to invoke imaginary beings to fill gaps in knowledge. That way lies intellectual stagnation."

Then you said:
"According to Webster's dictionary, Hypothes implies insufficient evidence to provide mor than a tentative expanation. That is what I am doing."

We are talking science, but you refuse to use the scientific definition of one of the most important scientific terms in our discussion? For a refresher, here is the scientific definition of hypothesis, from Wiktionary:
"A tentative conjecture explaining an observation, phenomenon or scientific problem that can be tested by further observation, investigation and/or experimentation."

Then you said:
"Being an agnostic, I admit that we don't know yet, but that is no reason to sit on my duff and not try to come up with a possible reasoned explanation. And, note that I did not say "oh we can't explain it, it must be God". I gave a reasoned explanation why I think a creator is necessary. To me, saying we don't know yet is what you refer to as being lazy and leads to intellectual stagnation. I.E., saying we don't know and the automatically writing off a creator as possiblity can lead to stagnation even though we can come up with reasons why a creator may be a necessity. Science is a wonderful tool, but it is not the end all be all."

Saying, "we don't know, so let's make something up that cannot be supported by evidence" is lazy thinking, period. Science *by definition* is the "end all be all". If something exists, it can be measured; that's what existence *means*. To say something is "beyond science" is the same as saying it doesn't exist.
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written by latsot, July 10, 2010
wdunlap:
I have presented valid arguments why a creator might be necessary.


Oh dear no. You've just claimed that it's true and shook your impotent fists at anyone who disagrees. This is not the sort of thing anyone worth speaking to would call an argument.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
"I didn't say your statement was false; I said you were using a false dichotomy. That means "if "A" isn't true, then "B" must be". That totally discounts "C". You said matter cannot come from nothing, therefore a supernatural cause is reasonable. This is false. I gave you another possibility ("C"), an infinite, eternal, non-sentient universe generator. There is just as much evidence for that as there is for a god (none)."

You say my statement is false. OK, then explain how something can come from nothing and explode in a big bang without the availability of a cause? I submit to you that if there is nothing, there cannot be a cause. Therefore, I have submitted that a supernatural intellect, could provide this cause. I also stated that the anthropic principle states that the constants for 4 forces have to be within an extremely narrow range. The odds of this happening are extremely minute. Either it happened by dumb luck or an inteligent supernatural being brought it about. You use false dichotomy when you say that A. so far all known dieties have been proven false, therefore, B. a creator cannot exist. To that I say that peoples have tried to speculate what a creator, if it existed, would be like. However, if this creator didn't care to tell anyone or have any desire to be worshipped, then these speculations, wrong or otherwise, do not prove it doesn't exist. I didn't say that my reasoning meant that a creator must be true, only that it is a possibility. You are the one who is stating that a creator definitely cannot exist.

". I have no faith whatsoever when I speak of unicorns not existing, even though I haven't checked everywhere. We do not speak of "proof" in science, that's for maths. In science, we speak of evidence. There is no evidence for a creator god."

Hmmm, I believe that science can pretty much study and determine that unicorns do not exist. On the other hand, science cannot muster evidence for a creator since it is only designed to study material things. We are left with speculating based on what we observe. In this case, I have presented two observations that have led me to suspect that a creator is necessary.

"This is another logical fallacy, "argument from incredulity". You don't understand how it can be that way, therefore, it cannot be. "

No, I am saying that I have made observations that make it difficult to suggest a natural rather than supernatural cause. But at the same time, I didn't say, as you are suggesting, that it must be the case, only that it leaves it open as a possibility. You, on the other hand, are saying that, in spite of this observation, you choose to close your eyes and refuse to accept the fact that a supernatural being could be a possible answer, and that only science will hold the ultimate answer, i.e., some sort of natural explanation. What if a creator does exist, then what?

"No, you are still missing the point. To posit something unprovable to explain something unlikely is sloppy thinking. If it seems unlikely to you, look further; do not give up and say "therefore god did it". "

First of all, I have admitted several times that I don't know. However, I am willing to speculate, in spite of lack of proof, with the added statement that that I feel this is only a possible, not an absolute answer. You said "if it seems unlikely to you". I don't think it is necessarily unlikely. However, you say to look further. I have looked further. At this point, a creator seems like a valid explanation, more so than something coming from nothing without a cause. Now, the anthropic principle constants, I suppose could have come about by dumb luck, but the odds seem against it.

"We don't know how many universes are or have been created. There is no reason to believe the answer is one. If it is a LOT more than one, then it is very likely our universe would be set up the way it is."

This argument has been made before. The problem with it is that universes are inorganic and, therefore, cannot be equated to evolution of organic creatures. Therefore, you cannot expect numberous parallel universes being "created", you used this term, with various constants until one came about with all the constants in the correct parameters.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Data Jack,
My last comment was in response to your part I. Sorry, I forgot to address it to you.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Data Jack state in his part II,

"This is completely, totally, irrational thinking. "Science" is not a tool in our detection kit. It is the detection kit. It's all there is; it the term we use to describe how we investigate our world. "

You said it all in a nutshell when you said that science is the term we use to describe how we investigate our world. Since a creator would not be of our world, I rest my case that a creator would not be investigated by science.

"here is the scientific definition of hypothesis, from Wiktionary:
"A tentative conjecture explaining an observation, phenomenon or scientific problem that can be tested by further observation, investigation and/or experimentation."


OK, you are correct, my hypothesis is a nonscientific one. It makes sense since science cannot test the hypothesis of the existence of a super nataural being.

"
here is the scientific definition of hypothesis, from Wiktionary:
"A tentative conjecture explaining an observation, phenomenon or scientific problem that can be tested by further observation, investigation and/or experimentation."

I was not just making something up. I gave you a reasoned explanation why I feel a creator is a possible necessity. Science is only the end all, be all, when it comes to material things that can be measured. A creator which more than likely is some sort of intelligent force or spirit, and/or in a different plane of existence, cannot be measured or detected by science, but that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't exist. In this case, science is not the end all, be all.
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Please, read more carefully
written by DataJack, July 10, 2010
Reply to wdunlap:

You ARE using a false dichotomy: you said:
a) something coming from nothing and exploding in a big bang without the availability of a cause
or
b) Supernatural guy does it

That IS a false dichotomy. You ignore other options:
c) An infinite, eternal universe generator that isn't magical or smart
d) String theory (which isn't a theory IMO, but a hypothesis) that allows for universes to pop into existence along with their own timelines..
e) ... bunches of other hypotheses without evidence.
f) Walt Disney did it
g) (most important) Something we haven't yet discovered

You claim because you can't believe (a), (b) is probably true. That is bad logic. The only one of those that is logical to accept is (g). The others are all equally unsupported. Accepting a "supernatural" explanation because we don't (yet) know a natural explanation is sloppy.

You then say:
"You use false dichotomy when you say that A. so far all known dieties have been proven false, therefore, B. a creator cannot exist"

First, that isn't a dichotomy, false or otherwise. And no one, me or any one else, made that claim. however this is sound logic:

Premise 1) No evidence for the existence of any deities has ever been found
Premise 2) All of the phenomena once attributed to deities (lightning, solar movement, fertility, disease, etc.) have all been found to have natural causes
Conclusion: A deity is unlikely to be the best explanation for other phenomena once attributed to deities (i.e., creation)

Then you say:
"I also stated that the anthropic principle states that the constants for 4 forces have to be within an extremely narrow range. The odds of this happening are extremely minute."

This is simply not knowable. What if the constants MUST be at the values they are at? What if the universe's structure requires it? We have observed a number of universes. That number is one. In every case (one case) the constants are at those values. What does that tell us? Nothing.

Finally, I didn't equate universes to organic organisms. I simply said if there are more ten one universe, it's possible they are not identical. What that would be is not germane to this discussion.
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Correction to the quote I presented from DataJack
written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Sorry DataJack, I accidentally put down the wrong quote you made.

Saying, "we don't know, so let's make something up that cannot be supported by evidence" is lazy thinking, period. Science *by definition* is the "end all be all". If something exists, it can be measured; that's what existence *means*. To say something is "beyond science" is the same as saying it doesn't exist."

I was not just making something up. I gave you a reasoned explanation why I feel a creator is a possible necessity. Science is only the end all, be all, when it comes to material things that can be measured. A creator which more than likely is some sort of intelligent force or spirit, and/or in a different plane of existence, cannot be measured or detected by science, but that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't exist. In this case, science is not the end all, be all.
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written by latsot, July 10, 2010
A creator which more than likely is some sort of intelligent force or spirit, and/or in a different plane of existence, cannot be measured or detected by science.


Says who? You? What special insight do you have on this matter that the rest of us don't?
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written by Skeptic Ginger (aka Skeptigirl), July 10, 2010
by wdunlap
OK, then explain how something can come from nothing...?
You mean like a god?
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Response to DataJack

"That IS a false dichotomy. You ignore other options:
c) An infinite, eternal universe generator that isn't magical or smart"

Again, when there is nothing, your unverse generator cannot exist.

"d) String theory (which isn't a theory IMO, but a hypothesis) that allows for universes to pop into existence along with their own timelines.."

Again, if there is nothing, how can string theory exist.

How about H) A creator caused it all to come about.

You say that a supernatural being is sloppy, but that sounds like a double standard. I can also say that saying a supernatural being couldn't exist is sloppy too.

"First, that isn't a dichotomy, false or otherwise. And no one, me or any one else, made that claim."

Either you or Skeptic Ginger have stated that belief in a god is irrational, and then go on to state that all ancient gods have been proven false. No, you are wrong. Either you or Ginger have pretty much stated that a god is not an option.

" Premise 1) No evidence for the existence of any deities has ever been found Premise 2) All of the phenomena once attributed to deities (lightning, solar movement, fertility, disease, etc.) have all been found to have natural causes
Conclusion: A deity is unlikely to be the best explanation for other phenomena once attributed to deities (i.e., creation)"

I have already brought that up that it was once believed that a god pulled a flaming chariot across the sky but science has since come up with a natural explanation. I am talking solely of first cause, and have presented a logical argument why a creator might be necessary.

"This is simply not knowable. What if the constants MUST be at the values they are at? What if the universe's structure requires it?"

What do you mean it is not knowable. We KNOW that if the gravitation constant were a hair stronger, the universe would have collapsed back on itself soon after the big bang. If it were too weak, then planets would not be able to form. This is SCIENCE. If the nuclear force were too strong, then atoms would be held too tightly for compounds to form. If too weak, then the atoms would soon fly apart. You question what if the constants must be at the malues they are at? What if the Universe's structure requires it? That is exactly what I am saying. If the constants are not within extremely narrow parameters, life could not form. This fact doesn't require the constants to be within these required parameters. The existence of our univese with life requires these parameters. If any of them are out of sync, we wouldn't be here discussing it. Why is it so difficult to admit that a creator could be a possibile reason why these parameters all turned out just the way they needed to be?

"Finally, I didn't equate universes to organic organisms. I simply said if there are more ten one universe, it's possible they are not identical"

That smacks of your universe generator. But, I suppose that if there are many universes in different plains, that could be an answer. Trouble is, we still have to figure out how all these universes started out from nothing by themselves. Think about it. We are talking about all this matter coming from nothing and explosing in big bang and in more than one plain to boot. Suddenly, a creator doesn't sound all that far fetched in comparison.



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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Skeptic Ginger said:

"You mean like a god? "

Very good!!! Somebody finally gets it. :-) smilies/cheesy.gif

Look. I understand. You have been so indoctrinated into believing that a creator can't exist that it is difficult to accept that as a possibility. (Sorry, the devil made me say that.) smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Iatsot,
" What special insight do you have on this matter that the rest of us don't? "

I can ask the same question of an atheist. What special insight do they have that they can defend their position without it being based on faith. Not that it proves anything, but the vast majority of humans on this earth believe in a God. Why is the paltry atheist minority so much more correct than they are?
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Poor Reasoning.
written by DataJack, July 10, 2010
Reply to wdunlap

You are still evading reason in this conversation.

Why are you allowed an intelligent, eternal creator god, but I am not allowed a non-intelligent, eternal universe generator? They are identical in evidence (none) perform the same task (creating the universe) have the same attribute that cannot exist within the universe (eternal).

I say a supernatural explanation is sloppy because every time, in the history of the world, that a supernatural explanation was posited, it has been overturned by a natural explanation. Every time.

For you to say not accepting a supernatural explanation is sloppy is, well, sloppy. There is zero evidence for supernatural events or beings. There is zero evidence for "higher planes of existence". To create a hypothesis to explain something that requires a being that has never been show to exist, that resides in a place that has never been shown to exist, and that has a property (eternal existence) that has never been show to exist is SLOPPY.

A better line of reasoning would be to say we don't yet know, but will continue to look. Positing an untestable explanation (god) is LAZY because it doesn't advance our understanding of our world. You can do, and people have done this throughout history. They are always wrong, so it is a safe bet that you are wrong now, too.

You seem hung up on "first cause" reasoning. This is not the smoking gun creationists pretend it is (Note: I am not saying you are a creationist, please read carefully). Causality occurs within our universe, because we have a time dimension. Whatever began our universe might not have a time dimension as we know it. Time may go both ways at once (past and present), may not exist, may have more than two directions, or may even oscillate. We don't know, but to say that a supernatural being is required to create our universe because everything within our universe requires a cause is...sloppy thinking, once again.
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written by latsot, July 10, 2010
I can ask the same question of an atheist. What special insight do they have that they can defend their position without it being based on faith. Not that it proves anything, but the vast majority of humans on this earth believe in a God. Why is the paltry atheist minority so much more correct than they are?


None. I claim no special insight on behalf of skeptics, I point only to our track record, which includes the entirity of science. Skeptical thought enables us to work out what's true and what isn't, which is the only way we can really know anything and the only way we can progress. If that's 'paltry', then I respect unquestioning belief even less than I already did.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Response to DataJack,

"Why are you allowed an intelligent, eternal creator god, but I am not allowed a non-intelligent, eternal universe generator? "

Because, unless your eternal has intellect and can exist when there is NOTHING, then it simply cannot exist. If it is intelligent and exists out of space and time, then it is simply a creator god--a rose by any name.....

" I say a supernatural explanation is sloppy because every time, in the history of the world, that a supernatural explanation was posited, it has been overturned by a natural explanation. Every time."

That's because supernatural was used to explain natural things. I am talking supernatural, matter appearing from nothing. Explain how that can be natural.

I'm sorry, but you can throw around the word sloppy all you want but it doesn't make it so.

The reason I seem to be hung up on first cause is because that is where I have problems with people stating that there can only be a natural cause for matter to appear from nothing when a natural cause cannot exist when there is nothing.

Hey, watch who you call a creationists. smilies/cheesy.gif
Don't worry, I know you weren't calling me one. Creationism is a whole other matter. I simply can't understand how very intelligent people can subscribe to the literal interpetation of the Bible with belief that a creator, if it exists, could bring everything into existence about 5000 years ago in 6 days when all the evidence shows that it took billions of years. I had met a super smart outside contractor at work who used several PCs at once and who was an ex Physists who had turned to creationism. That blew my mind. But then again, he had reached a low point in his life and these people helped turn him around. So, at least he got something positive from it.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Response to Iatsot,

"
None. I claim no special insight on behalf of skeptics, I point only to our track record, which includes the entirity of science. Skeptical thought enables us to work out what's true and what isn't, which is the only way we can really know anything and the only way we can progress. If that's 'paltry', then I respect unquestioning belief even less than I already did. "

I can't argue with that. Well said. My only comment is that it is difficult to use science to determine first cause. That is why I feel we are left with contending with intellectual reasoning, right or wrong.
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written by latsot, July 10, 2010
wdunlap:
first cause


Please. You use the phrase like a talisman. It's not an argument. I don't suppose science can have much to say on the matter since it is such a deliberately meaningless concept. Does science have anything to say about the origins of the universe? Yes, of course. We don't know how it happened yet, but we have some theories about it and we know what must have happened (very) shortly afterwards. We'll very likely learn more in time. "First cause" is nothing more than a dubious assumption, however, and it's not science's job to explain dubious assumptions. If you don't mind, we'll stick to explaining stuff we observe.

The role of "intellectual reason" in all of this is in determining things like how we can evaluate evidence and how we can know what constitutes a good reason to say we know something. And the jury has spoken. There's only one reliable way to determine whether a claim is right or wrong and you know that as well as I do.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 10, 2010
written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Skeptic Ginger said:
"You mean like a god? "

Very good!!! Somebody finally gets it.
Wd, you are the one that doesn't seem to get "it". Your imaginary answer answers nothing. How does it satisfy you to fill in scientific knowledge gaps with the god of the gaps? Just how does that fabricated answer work in your opinion?

Wd:
How did the Universe come into existence?
God made it.
Who made God?
We don't/can't know, or, God has always existed, or, [fill in your own version].

Skeptic Ginger:
How did the Universe come into existence?
We don't yet know. It's possible the elements of the Universe have always been in existence despite the fact the concept of infinite existence is hard for humans at this time to conceptualize. It's also hard to conceptualize infinite space but there is evidence that is the case.
Did the Universe arise from 'nothing'?
No, that much we do know.
The singularity, according to the evidence we have evaluated, existed of the pure energy state of matter. As energy, no space need be occupied so the singularity could easily accomodate all the mass in the Universe. As some of the energy converted to its state of mass, a rapid expansion took place. Energy = Mass times the speed of light (C) squared. Energy and mass are the same thing in different states just like water and ice are the same thing in different states.


The second answer is supported by observable, measurable, tangible evidence.
The first answer is what primitive people who didn't have the benefit of scientific observation made up.
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Round and round the mulberry bush....
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 10, 2010
wdunlap:
What special insight do they have that they can defend their position without it being based on faith.
They have evidence all gods evaluated to date have turned out to be mythical beings invented by humans. You continue to avoid addressing the double standard you are applying to your god belief that would be unreasonable if applied to any number of other things we draw conclusions about when there is overwhelming evidence of a repeating pattern, and absolutely no evidence of another explanation for god beliefs. Can you at least address or try to justify your application of a double standard?

wdunlap:
Either you or Skeptic Ginger have stated that belief in a god is irrational, and then go on to state that all ancient gods have been proven false. No, you are wrong. Either you or Ginger have pretty much stated that a god is not an option.
Can you identify a single "ancient god" that there is evidence was not a mythical god and tell us what that evidence is?

wdunlap:
the vast majority of humans on this earth believe in a God. Why is the paltry atheist minority so much more correct than they are?
God beliefs arose and became established before the collective human mind developed more sophisticated methods of careful observation. The fact careful observation has not yet replaced primitive magical thinking does not worry me. I wish the process would move a bit faster, but the reality is what it is.

As for evidence of who is right and why it is inevitable that science will eventually replace magical thinking, one need only look at the success of scientific observation and rational thinking compared to the lack of success of magical thinking, prayer and rituals.

wdunlap:
The reason I seem to be hung up on first cause is because that is where I have problems with people stating that there can only be a natural cause for matter to appear from nothing when a natural cause cannot exist when there is nothing.
Matter formed from the pure energy in the singularity. It did not arise from "nothing". We can trace the Universe's development back to within a fraction of a second after the energy in the singularity began cooling and converting from its energy state into particle states. We know from the evidence the initial energy existed in the singularity. You, OTOH, have no evidence for your god of the gap. None, Zip, Nada.

You are proposing that a magical imaginary explanation for the existence of the energy in the singularity is more rational than simply saying one doesn't have any information about the energy/mass of the Universe before the singularity. Magical explanations are by definition not rational explanations.
wdunlap:
My only comment is that it is difficult to use science to determine first cause. That is why I feel we are left with contending with intellectual reasoning, right or wrong.
So making up a god to fill the gap is your answer? Using intellectual reasoning one notes that the god of the gaps has a reputation of 100% failure. I think you know where this is going.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,
According to the big bang theory, the universe began by expanding from an infinitesimal volume with extremely high density and temperature. The universe was initially significantly smaller than even a pore on your skin. With the big bang, the fabric of space itself began expanding like the surface of an inflating balloon – matter simply rode along the stretching space like dust on the balloon's surface. The big bang is not like an explosion of matter in otherwise empty space; rather, space itself began with the big bang and carried matter with it as it expanded.

Nothing here about it being first energy like you are suggesting.

Your problem is that you want to take valid reasoning on my part and toss it out as imagination. Sorry, your argument fails. You are so hung up on science being the answer that you simply ignore any reasoning that could suggest otherwise.

When I made the statement "Either you or Skeptic Ginger have stated that belief in a god is irrational, and then go on to state that all ancient gods have been proven false. No, you are wrong", I didn't mean that you were wrong about all gods being proven false, but that Data Jack was wrong when he said that he and nobody made a statement that god doesn't exist. I was indicating that you and/or he indicated that god is an irrational belief and, therefore, a god did not exist.

I have already stated that those attempts at figuring out what a god would be like if it existed were not based on fact since nobody knows what a god, if it existed is like. Further, it appears that, if this god or creator exists, he has no interest in making contact or being worshipped. So, the fact that all the attempts to figure out what this god is like have been wrong does not at all prove that it doesn't exist.

Now you are putting on your prognoticator hat and making statements without evidence that science will disprove a god exist. You still aren't listening. Let me say it again, SCIENCE IS NOT ABLE TO DETERMINE THE EXISTENCE OR NONEXISTENCE OF A SUPERNATURAL BEING. There are those who claim to have had contact with God or a representative through some sort of religious experience. Can your be all, end all science deterrmine if this is merely hallucination? I doubt it. So your prognostication is faulty and your crystal ball is full of blemishes.

You state that I am proposing a magical imaginary explanation for the existance of energy. No, I am stating that my explanation is no less valid that one that states that matter or energy appeared like magic out of nothing and preceded to expand rapidly into the big bang.
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written by wdunlap, July 10, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,
According to the big bang theory, the universe began by expanding from an infinitesimal volume with extremely high density and temperature. The universe was initially significantly smaller than even a pore on your skin. With the big bang, the fabric of space itself began expanding like the surface of an inflating balloon – matter simply rode along the stretching space like dust on the balloon's surface. The big bang is not like an explosion of matter in otherwise empty space; rather, space itself began with the big bang and carried matter with it as it expanded.

Nothing here about it being first energy like you are suggesting.

Your problem is that you want to take valid reasoning on my part and toss it out as imagination. Sorry, your argument fails. You are so hung up on science being the answer that you simply ignore any reasoning that could suggest otherwise.

When I made the statement "Either you or Skeptic Ginger have stated that belief in a god is irrational, and then go on to state that all ancient gods have been proven false. No, you are wrong", I didn't mean that you were wrong about all gods being proven false, but that Data Jack was wrong when he said that he and nobody made a statement that god doesn't exist. I was indicating that you and/or he indicated that god is an irrational belief and, therefore, a god did not exist.

I have already stated that those attempts at figuring out what a god would be like if it existed were not based on fact since nobody knows what a god, if it existed is like. Further, it appears that, if this god or creator exists, he has no interest in making contact or being worshipped. So, the fact that all the attempts to figure out what this god is like have been wrong does not at all prove that it doesn't exist.

Now you are putting on your prognoticator hat and making statements without evidence that science will disprove a god exist. You still aren't listening. Let me say it again, SCIENCE IS NOT ABLE TO DETERMINE THE EXISTENCE OR NONEXISTENCE OF A SUPERNATURAL BEING. There are those who claim to have had contact with God or a representative through some sort of religious experience. Can your be all, end all science deterrmine if this is merely hallucination? I doubt it. So your prognostication is faulty and your crystal ball is full of blemishes.

You state that I am proposing a magical imaginary explanation for the existance of energy. No, I am stating that my explanation is no less valid that one that states that matter or energy appeared like magic out of nothing and preceded to expand rapidly into the big bang.
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The Big Bang and/or something from nothing
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 10, 2010

Wdunlap
Nothing here about it being first energy like you are suggesting.
Descriptions of the singularity differ. Some describe it as nothing, into which matter and energy popped into existence.
http://www.big-bang-theory.com/
Another misconception is that we tend to image the singularity as a little fireball appearing somewhere in space. According to the many experts however, space didn't exist prior to the Big Bang....The singularity didn't appear in space; rather, space began inside of the singularity. Prior to the singularity, nothing existed, not space, time, matter, or energy - nothing. So where and in what did the singularity appear if not in space? We don't know. We don't know where it came from, why it's here, or even where it is. All we really know is that we are inside of it and at one time it didn't exist and neither did we.

But other descriptions exist:
http://www.physlink.com/educat.../ae649.cfm
The Big Bang singularity is a point of zero volume, but very high mass, which makes the density infinite. This singularity contained all of the matter and energy in the Universe. The initial moment of the cyclopean explosion very well remains a mystery — however, astronomers and physicists believe that after the tiniest fraction of a second, the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force separated, which probably caused the Universe to begin inflating. The Big Bang itself created space, time, and all of the matter and energy we know today….There was only one Big Bang singularity, and it contained the whole Universe. ….space and time were born from the Big Bang singularity….



Extrapolation of the expansion of the Universe backwards in time using general relativity yields an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past.[29: Hawking, S.W.; Ellis, G.F.R. (1973). The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. ISBN*0-521-20016-4.]

The earliest phases of the Big Bang are subject to much speculation. In the most common models, the Universe was filled homogeneously and isotropically with an incredibly high energy density, huge temperatures andpressures, and was very rapidly expanding and cooling. Approximately 10−37 seconds into the expansion, a phase transition caused a cosmic inflation, during which the Universe grew exponentially.[31: Guth, A.H. (199smilies/cool.gif. The Inflationary Universe: Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins. Vintage Books. ISBN*978-0099959502.]

After inflation stopped, the Universe consisted of a quark–gluon plasma, as well as all other elementary particles.[32: Schewe, P. (2005). "An Ocean of Quarks". Physics News Update (American Institute of Physics) 728 (1). Retrieved 2007-05-27.]..

..The core ideas of the Big Bang—the expansion, the early hot state, the formation of helium, the formation of galaxies—are derived from many observations that are independent from any cosmological model; these include theabundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure, and the Hubble diagram for Type Ia supernovae.


The confusion comes when one is describing the Universe which includes time and space. Prior to the BB, there was no time or space. But that is the nature of the singularity, everything exists but it does not occupy space or time. Infinitely dense, infinitely hot and so on are difficult concepts to contemplate. For example the balloon analogy makes one wonder why we need a 2D analogy. Why can't we make a model of the 3D expanding space time?

Beyond this there is no benefit in continuing this exchange about the specific science of the BB. There are no shortage of sources for investigating the current science of the BB and the current status of our understanding of the beginning of the Universe. I post the above to support my position that an evidence based evaluation of the Universe demonstrates not a single bit of evidence gods were involved.

You, OTOH, have not supported your claim that it is rational or logical to arbitrarily add a god layer to your explanation of the "first cause" as you call it. I am not the only one to point this out to you. Yet you just repeat your unsupported declaration that an arbitrary god layer is rational. It's time to agree to disagree on this issue.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 10, 2010
My post disappeared. But seeing the duplicate post above makes me think it is still in the system. If it doesn't appear soon I'll repost it.
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Re straw men and loose ends
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 10, 2010
Wdunlap
I was indicating that you and/or he indicated that god is an irrational belief and, therefore, a god did not exist....if this god or creator exists, he has no interest in making contact or being worshipped. So, the fact that all the attempts to figure out what this god is like have been wrong does not at all prove that it doesn't exist. ...Now you are putting on your prognoticator hat and making statements without evidence that science will disprove a god exist. You still aren't listening. Let me say it again, SCIENCE IS NOT ABLE TO DETERMINE THE EXISTENCE OR NONEXISTENCE OF A SUPERNATURAL BEING. There are those who claim to have had contact with God or a representative through some sort of religious experience. Can your be all, end all science deterrmine if this is merely hallucination? I doubt it. So your prognostication is faulty and your crystal ball is full of blemishes.

You state that I am proposing a magical imaginary explanation for the existance of energy. No, I am stating that my explanation is no less valid that one that states that matter or energy appeared like magic out of nothing and preceded to expand rapidly into the big bang.
Belief without any evidence is by definition an irrational belief. You may define 'irrational' differently, but this is the definition I am using.

It isn't because god beliefs are irrational that I've concluded gods don't exist. It is because there is no evidence gods do exist, AND, because there is overwhelming evidence god beliefs arose within human imagination, not because people ever interacted with real gods.

The Deist god you describe that doesn't make it's presence known would be a god you'd have no way of being aware of. Such a god represents attempts to redefine gods to purposefully be outside the realm of investigation. Why would anyone want or need to define a god like that? Obviously, because any other definition of gods have been debunked. If a god supposedly answers prayers, one can test that. Turns out gods don't answer prayers. That is consistent with gods being no more than myths. The gross errors in the Bible are evidence gods are no more than myths. I could make an endless list.
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written by wdunlap, July 11, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,

Thank you for the write ups on the Big Bang. Yes, I am familiar with the big bang described as more like a rapid expansion of a baloon than an explosion and that as the expansion occurred, space than was formed.

One of the things you quoted is:
"Descriptions of the singularity differ. Some describe it as nothing, into which matter and energy popped into existence. "

You say I have not given any evidence of a creator, and I admit I can't, only that I can look at the scientific statement that matter and energy popped into existence from nothing. I have repeatedly stated that when there is nothing, you have no cause, yet you refuse to accept this as an argument. I can only assume that you are so indoctrinated by the belief that it had to be due to some natural occurrence. I am here to tell you that I am not saying that that is not the case, only that it seems incredible that something popped up from nothing. Whether or not it adds complication as you state, is not the point. In order for matter and energy to pop up from NOTHING, you need a cause and if you have nothing, there is no cause available to you. In that case, I presented the possibility that the only way you can get that cause is from a creator.

You are correct that to continue this discussion would be to go around in circles. However, I very much enjoyed our discussion and appreciate the chance to present my views. Thank you.
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written by wdunlap, July 11, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,
Yeah, I see what you mean. I have email with your post, but I don't see the post here.

"Belief without any evidence is by definition an irrational belief."

Whether or not I have evidence, I have presented reasons why something from nothing might require a creator. In that case, the above can also be applied to someone stating that a creator does not exist, since you have no evidence. Therefore, this can also be described as an irrational belief as well.

I agree that a Deist god who doesn't make its presence known would be a god you'd have no way of being aware of. My point exactly. I also agree that there have been scientific studies that indicate that prayers do not work. However, there are supposedly those who have claimed to be healed of something doctors said could not be healed. What is interesting is that there is evidence of discarded crutches in the ancient temples of the Egyption Goddess Isis. What is the explanation? Power of possitive thinking? Perhaps. I suppose you could argue that no one has had a missing limb replaced.

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More loose ends
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 11, 2010
Wdunlap,
I too have enjoyed the discussion.

I have repeatedly stated that when there is nothing, you have no cause, yet you refuse to accept this as an argument. I can only assume that you are so indoctrinated by the belief that it had to be due to some natural occurrence. I am here to tell you that I am not saying that that is not the case, only that it seems incredible that something popped up from nothing.
If you are suggesting that because you have not made your case, it must be because I'm unwilling to consider it, that would be a false assumption on your part.

Now I know you don't agree and believe your position is supported. Where it falls short, however, is your "first cause" argument fails, not because you are unsatisfied with the "science hasn't answered yet" answer. Your argument fails because you cannot explain the "first cause" for the very god you are attributing the Universe first cause to. Have you heard the expression, "it's turtles all the way down"?.
At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever", said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"[Hawking, Stephen (198smilies/cool.gif. A Brief History of Time]

As for the Universe popping into existence, your concept has problems. In conceptualizing space-time, the model is of a beginning. In addition the concept is that there is nothing outside of the Universe. That does not mean, empty space, it means literally nothing exists outside of the Universe (as far as we know because there are hypotheses that other universes could exist). This is merely a model that is consistent with the observable data. It describes a universe with no center and no edges. One uses the 2D surface of a balloon to conceptualize the model.
In the balloon model, if one travels in one direction, rather than reaching an edge, one returns to one's starting place. We are not sure that is a correct model. It could be that one simply never reaches the edge. As you travel in a direct line, you never overtake the rate of expansion. Or maybe the Universe is simply infinite.
All of these concepts are inadequate. If something began from one size and expands, that suggests an edge and a center. And the Universe has at least 3 spatial dimensions, not 2.
When some people describe their conceptualization of this model, they describe the key part that the Universe didn't exist until the BB. That conceptualization focuses on the nature of the space-time and a universe with no center and no edge.
There are other parts to the conceptualization of the model, however. The singularity in the model, for example, is not 'nothing'. It is an infinitely dense, infinitely small collection of all the matter and energy in the Universe. Just as in the model, 'nothing' outside of the Universe is truly 'nothing' and not empty space, 'infinitely small and infinitely dense' is not merely a description of something very dense and very small. It is a description of something which contains every single thing in the Universe taking up no space at all.
The problem I have with your view of this universe space-time model, is you are taking limited descriptions of the model and translating that into a conceptualization that makes sense to you. What you need to consider is that we don't know what preceded the singularity, or exactly what the singularity consisted of (because the math formula breaks down just before the singularity).
The Universe had no space before the BB, but that doesn't mean there was nothing there and then there was. It means our conceptual models of the beginning of the Universe are inadequate. Our life experiences don't include some of the things we need to conceptualize the Universe.
I highly recommend you read a very short book called "Flatland". It's a story of a 2 dimensional world intersecting a 3D world. The people in Flatland experience things from the 3D world popping into existence and disappearing. In the 3D world one could see the entire object and could therefore conceptualize what the 2D world occupants could not conceptualize.
The point I'm making is we don't know that the Universe "popped" into existence. Just as the people in Flatland could not see the 3rd dimension and thus experienced objects appearing and disappearing, in reality the objects indeed existed before and after they could be seen. It's your concept of space-time that is confusing you. Space popped into existence and time began at a finite point. What existed before space began expanding was not "nothing", it was something outside of our observable view.
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part 2
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 11, 2010
However, there are supposedly those who have claimed to be healed of something doctors said could not be healed. What is interesting is that there is evidence of discarded crutches in the ancient temples of the Egyption Goddess Isis.
And yet there are no limb protheses left behind at Lourdes or Medjugorje. Is there some reason the gods choose not to perform irrefutable miracles like regrowing a severed limb? Modern medicine has plenty of evidence of seemingly miraculous events like spontaneous tumor regression. No prayers or magic is required.
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written by wdunlap, July 11, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,

I admit that explaining where a creator would come from if our universe doesn't exist could be a problem, however, you mentioned the possibility of other universes. The creator could exist in a different universe or somehow outside of space and time or somewhere we cannot comprehend. In any case, probably undectectable.

You mention the possibility that though the universe had no space, that doesn't mean that there was nothing there and then there was. This is a good point. It makes more sense then to say there was nothing and then there was something. As long as there is something, then a cause can exist that resulted in the big bang. Quantum Mechanics can then be involved. That I can buy. However, I'm still foggy how something could have exploded into a universe without intellect directing it. Also, we still have the Anthropic Principle to deal with which still presents the possibility of the necessity for an intelligent force directing the correct parameters of the force constants. BTW, unfortunately, unlike the first cause I presented which is my idea, I got this from Kenneth Miller's book, Searching for Darwin's God. In this book, he presents one of the best arguments for evolution than any I have read so far. But he also believes that a creator set up evolution and Ken uses the Anthropic Principle as "evidence" that a creator exists. Unfortunately, he is a Christian, which I have found numerous evidence is man-made. If he had chosen Theism or Deism, he would have had more credence.

I haven't actually read the book Flatland, but have read accounts of it many years ago. Something that fascinates me is that physics claims that there may be as many as 12 dimensions.

Yes, I agree there are no limb protheses left behind at Lourdes. Hmmm, you don't suppose that we are giving a god too much credit for what it can do. Maybe it can only heal what exists and when a limb is missing it cannot replace it. After all, the Bible claims the creator did it all in 6 days, but evidence shows that things came about very slowly over billions of years. Still, with all those going to Lourdes, only a minute few are healed. The Catholic Church is careful to weed out only those cases that they believe authentic and appear to have had to have come about by supernatural cause. I admit that I am not completely convinced, but who knows?

OK, a little comic relief. We have a psychic Octopus named Paul. Before each world cup game, the owner put a flag for each team on two separate boxes with food in them. The Octopus selected one of the boxes. Well, he has selected every single winner of each of the world cup teams including his last one that Spain would win. I should have placed a bet. Looks like evidence that this octopus really is psychic or extremely lucky. Which is it? One more. There was sometime ago a report of a cat at a nursing home who when he hopped onto the bed of on of the residence, that person would be the next to die. The cat never was wrong. How did the cat know? Did he smell death or was he truly psychic? Shortly after the article, the cat turned up dead. I believe someone decided that this whole business was a bit too eerie and did the cat in.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 11, 2010
The creator could exist in a different universe or somehow outside of space and time or somewhere we cannot comprehend. In any case, probably undectectable.
All things being equal, one hypothesized out of thin air explanation for the creation of the Universe is as good as another. But all things are not equal. We are back to all that evidence people made up god myths and no evidence any real gods exist or ever existed. In addition to that, we have all the examples of the past failures of the God of the Gaps hypotheses. You are left with wishful thinking.

That's your prerogative, but you have not one single thing that supports this wishful thinking is also rational thinking. That you have a hard time contemplating a Universe that wasn't created by a sentient being is only evidence of your lack of imagination. I'm not trying to insult you. I'm only trying to point out that your logic here is based on your not being able to comprehend the possibilities, it is not based on any evidence a sentient creator is a logical conclusion. It's like saying, because one cannot imagine bacteria, that is somehow evidence that bacteria do not exist.

I'm still foggy how something could have exploded into a universe without intellect directing it.
Have you ever contemplated how a neutron star could have a mass greater than the Sun in a space 24 km across rotating several HUNDRED TIMES per SECOND? How about supermassive black holes? Quasars? Space-Time? That there might be 11 dimensions, not 3 plus time? Space having no edge and no center?

Why is a sentient creator even on your radar? The Universe is immensely strange. It seems bizarre to me to think the intelligence of humans suggests intelligence is any more than an extremely minor component of the Universe's complexity.

we still have the Anthropic Principle to deal with which still presents the possibility of the necessity for an intelligent force directing the correct parameters of the force constants.
This is one of the weakest rationalizations for gods out there. Whatever a universe consists of will direct where it goes. If the balances resulted in a different equation, we'd have a different outcome, a different universe. The argument you are echoing is like saying if we come across a universe with a rock, we should conclude only a sentient being could have designed a universe that contains rocks. If a universe wasn't naturally tuned to life developing, the point would be moot, we wouldn't be there. Something else, however, would be there in that universe.

I'll take this a bit further later this evening. I must walk my dogs before the light fades.

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written by William, July 12, 2010
Yes, and no.

To whoever else was voting up wdunlap and me, please weigh in.
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written by wdunlap, July 12, 2010
Skeptic Ginger,

Ok I have tried twice to send you my response, but it hasn't hit.
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written by wdunlap, July 12, 2010
OOPS, I should have been more patient. Sorry, I now have posted the same response twice.
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written by latsot, July 12, 2010
wdunlap:
In order for matter and energy to pop up from NOTHING, you need a cause


The first cause argument is very problematic. It implies that every event in the universe must have a cause (we don't know whether this is true, it's an assumption) EXCEPT for the first cause, which - for no reason at all - is assumed to be exempt. These are two pretty hefty assumptions which are required for what seems like a rather pathetic rhetorical trick, long since taken apart.

Even if we were to accept that there must be a first cause, there is no reason at all to draw the conclusion that it must be some kind of intelligence, let alone something we might be able to percieve as 'god'. It's fine to speculate, of course, and in a very restricted sense any speculation is equally valid. This, I suspect, is the crux of your argument. However, it is just another rhetorical trick: it's speculation masquerading as evidence by hiding behind two gargantuan assumptions and a flimsy argument that holds water like a net.

How can I better explain this?

If you claimed there's a god, we'd say there's no evidence and thefore no good reason to believe you. You'd reply with "Ah ha! But the universe must have been caused by something (because I say so) and that something could have been a god (because I say so). THERE'S your evidence!"

I cannot understand why anyone would be convinced by this argument when it's stripped of its pseudo-philosophical language.

Whether or not I have evidence, I have presented reasons why something from nothing might require a creator. In that case, the above can also be applied to someone stating that a creator does not exist, since you have no evidence. Therefore, this can also be described as an irrational belief as well.


Not in the slightest. You've said that a particular conception of a creator - one that cannot in any way, even in principle, be detected - cannot be ruled out. And you've used an insubstantial argument to give this some legitimacy. In fact, the argument is as necessary as it is effective. It is self-evidently true that science can't study things that can't be detected. But even so, speculating that there's a god is STILL a worse idea than speculating that there isn't one. This is not a 50/50 proposition since a god would necessarily be very complex and therefore very unlikely. On the basis of probability alone it is deeply irrational to conclude there's a god and extremely rational to conclude that there isn't.

Your problem is that you want to take valid reasoning on my part and toss it out as imagination. Sorry, your argument fails. You are so hung up on science being the answer that you simply ignore any reasoning that could suggest otherwise.


I think you need to recognise that your reasoning is *not* valid. Ginger isn't the one wearing blinders here.
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written by latsot, July 13, 2010
wd:
I haven't actually read the book Flatland, but have read accounts of it many years ago. Something that fascinates me is that physics claims that there may be as many as 12 dimensions.


The book is about the limitations of our intuition. Go ahead and read it. It's not a long book and it is very entertaining.
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written by wdunlap, July 13, 2010
Reply to Iatsot,
"The first cause argument is very problematic. It implies that every event in the universe must have a cause (we don't know whether this is true, it's an assumption)"

I remember from my science class that all reactions have a cause. So it seems to me that matter appearing from nothing would require a cause as well. An object, that is still, will remain still until a cause such as me giving it a push makes it move. However, it will soon slow down and stop. Why, what is the cause? Answer, gravity. However if I am outside a space station in a space suit and give this object a push, it will continue to keep moving until it hits something or comes into the near something producing gravity. Why, because gravity is no longer a factor.

If as you state that if we were to accept that there must be a first cause, there is no reason at all to draw the conclusion that it must be some kind of intelligence. In order for something to come from nothing, it seems to make sense that it would have to be caused by a supernatural being. Remember, there is no cause available when there is nothing, so you need to look elsewhere. I'm afraid that the best I can do is suggest that some sort of intelligent supernatural being outside of space and time would be required. Is it problematic? Sure, but something coming from nothing without the availability of a cause is also problematic. One more thing, this being could simply be a creator and not require worship, i.e., not a god.

"But even so, speculating that there's a god is STILL a worse idea than speculating that there isn't one. "

If we look at your argument based purely on science and the fact that science cannot find proof, I would tend to agree with you, however, the fact that science has no way of detecting a supernatural being, if one exists, and the fact that a first cause cannot be ruled out and the fact that the constants involved in the forces in the Anthropic Principle require such a narrow parameter that if too strong or too weak, life could not exist period, indicates that a supernatural being may be required.

Funny, I found the following stated by Aquinas which shows he beat me to the punch.

Aquinas observed that, in nature, there were things with contingent existences. Since it is possible for such things not to exist, there must be some time at which these things did not in fact exist. Thus, according to Aquinas, there must have been a time when nothing existed. If this is so, there would exist nothing that could bring anything into existence. Contingent beings, therefore, are insufficient to account for the existence of contingent beings: there must exist a necessary being whose non-existence is an impossibility, and from which the existence of all contingent beings is derived.


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written by wdunlap, July 13, 2010
Iatsot,
I will try to read Flatland, but at the moment I have a backlog of books. One of them is a book given to me by my agnostic son, titled DMT The Spirit Molecule. Essentially, DMT is produced by the pineal gland. There are controls over how much is produced, but it appears that a lot is produced and fed into the blood stream during stress such as a massive heart attack, which seems to be the cause of the out of body experiences. I was convinced that these experiences were not real, but the description of scientic studies of various subjects produced similar experiences that convinced subjects that there is a continuation of consciousness after death as well as a God. I haven't finished the book yet, so I am holding judgement. It could simply be hallucinations from the drug, but why do so many have pretty much the same experiences? Also, why would natural selection result in the pineal gland, which produces this psychedelic drug. Just doesn't make any sense, unless....... Funny, Skeptic Ginger accused me of not having an imagination, but I'm inclined to think that the ones who are lacking imagination are the atheists because they only see things in black and white.
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written by wdunlap, July 13, 2010
Reply to Skeptic Ginger (this is the one I accidentally posted twice, but now both posts were removed, so I am reposting it.

"We are back to all that evidence people made up god myths and no evidence any real gods exist or ever existed."

Don't you see? We aren't back to to made up god myths. I am not making up any gods, only suggesting one might be necessary, but not describing it, i.e., making up one. You deep saying there is no evidence. And I keep saying I know that as well as there is no evidence one doesn't exist. We are only left with intellectual pondering.

"That you have a hard time contemplating a Universe that wasn't created by a sentient being is only evidence of your lack of imagination."

On the contrary, it takes more imagination to attempt to come up with a solution rather than sitting back and saying "I don't Know".
Have you ever contemplated how a neutron star could have a mass greater than the Sun in a space 24 km across rotating several HUNDRED TIMES per SECOND? How about supermassive black holes? Quasars? Space-Time? That there might be 11 dimensions, not 3 plus time? Space having no edge and no center?"

Yes, but I don't see why that nullifies the possibility of a creator. BTW, I already mentioned in my post that Phycisists believe there are around 12 dimensions.

"That's your prerogative, but you have not one single thing that supports this wishful thinking is also rational thinking."

You still don't get it or you wouldn't say that my belief a creator is necessary is wishful thinking. If that were true, I would still be the Christian I was raised as. However, I was more interested in the truth and was thrilled, to finally find the truth even though the truth was that Christianity was bogus. Initially, I was a pure agnostic until I realized that I realized that science couldn't explain how things started. A creator, call it what you want, "god of the gaps" smilies/smiley.gif, seems a valid possibility. Unlike you who refuse to entertain such a notion, I do agree that you also have a valid argument as well, though for now I think mine is more valid.

You argue against Anthropic Principle by saying that a different universe would form, but that isn't the case. If the gravitational constant were just a little too strong, the universe would have collapsed back on itself shortly after the big bang, i.e., no universe would be formed at all period. If the gravitation force were too weak, then everything would have expanded so rapidly that no planets could be formed. Again no life would be able to exist. If the strong nuclear force were too strong, then the atoms would be held too tight to form compounds. Again, no planets, no life. If it had been too weak, then the atoms would not hold together and would fly apart. Again no universe, no life. So your argument that the universe would be different doesn't work because no life could exist. So you see, my argument that it is possible that a creator is necessary to direct these constants so that life can exist. If these constants, and there are 2 more, are not within very narrow paramenters, then life could not exist period, i.e., that includes any life forms different from us.
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written by wdunlap, July 13, 2010
This is Hell

Notice what he says about atheists and Christians.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC6UrMTC73A
Enjoy. I got this over at the friendly agnostic blog.
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written by latsot, July 13, 2010
I remember from my science class that all reactions have a cause. So it seems to me that matter appearing from nothing would require a cause as well.

I hope you'll forgive me if I hesitate to accept your science class as the ultimate authority on the origins of the universe, especially since it didn't seem to teach you the difference between gravity and friction. Causality is more complex than you suppose. You're going to need something a bit more convincing than 'my teacher told me' if we're going to use it as a basis of argument about how the entire universe began.

If as you state that if we were to accept that there must be a first cause, there is no reason at all to draw the conclusion that it must be some kind of intelligence. In order for something to come from nothing, it seems to make sense that it would have to be caused by a supernatural being.


You see, here we are again. "It seems reasonable to me" is not an argument, it's pure speculation. I'm supposed to accept that a god invented the universe *solely on your say-so and nothing more*. You do understand, don't you, that even if your logic is sound (it isn't) then you still need to justify your assumptions. This you have not done.

Remember, there is no cause available when there is nothing, so you need to look elsewhere. I'm afraid that the best I can do is suggest that some sort of intelligent supernatural being outside of space and time would be required. Is it problematic? Sure, but something coming from nothing without the availability of a cause is also problematic.


According to you. Physicists would have it differently. There's a whole body of theory about how this might have happened and you shouldn't assume that because you don't know something, nobody else does. Besides, even if both arguments are problematic, they are not *equally* problematic. Think about which is the more parsimonious: on one hand, we have to accept that there's a supernatural intelligence, which somehow exists even though there's nothing for it to exist in, who created an entire universe for reasons unknown, taking great care to ensure it couldn't be detected. On the other hand, we just have to let go of the notion that nothing can happen without a cause (except the magical first cause, of course). Do you see what kind of mental gymnastics are required to fit a god into the picture? And how little effort it takes to let go of an assumption that is known to be unnecessary and unfounded anyway?

You seem to be under the impression that if we don't know every detail of some process, we're free to invent whatever nonsense we like to fill the gap and that any candidate explanations are equally likely. This is self-evidently not the case.

If we look at your argument based purely on science and the fact that science cannot find proof, I would tend to agree with you, however, the fact that science has no way of detecting a supernatural being, if one exists, and the fact that a first cause cannot be ruled out and the fact that the constants involved in the forces in the Anthropic Principle require such a narrow parameter that if too strong or too weak, life could not exist period, indicates that a supernatural being may be required.


No it doesn't. It shows at best that things like universes might be unlikely. Even if the parameters really are so fine-tuned (and this isn't quite as clear-cut as some would have it), then we don't really have a way to work out how unlikely it all is in any meaningful sense. It only has to happen once.

Funny, I found the following stated by Aquinas which shows he beat me to the punch.


He and a whole bunch of other people, yes. I assumed you knew this. Since you took that passage from Wikipedia, you must have seen the counter-arguments to the cosmological argument there and the explanation of why a first cause isn't necessarily required. You seem to have skipped over these and gone straight to Aquinas. Why you'd consider him a more reliable source on physics than modern physicists or a more convincing philosopher than scores of philosophers throughout the ages who cut their teeth working out how to dismiss the cosmological argument is beyond me. It looks very much to me as if you've chosen what you want to believe and are now desperately trying to justify it.
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written by latsot, July 13, 2010
It could simply be hallucinations from the drug, but why do so many have pretty much the same experiences?


Why wouldn't they? I would say that this is more likely to point to biological and/or cultural similarities than a magical fairyland. Why are so many accounts of alien abduction so similar? Would you consider that as evidence of extra terrestrial visitors?

What experiences are we talking about? A feeling of floating? Detatchment from the body? Tunnels? Lights? Aren't these perfectly common dreams? I've certainly had all those dreams in the past, several times, but because I wasn't close to death at the time, nobody thought to interpret this as evidence of god. Have you considered that people might only report near death experiences IF they happen to match the pattern we already think of as an NDE? For example, if I'm close to death and have an experience that feels like suddenly being purple, I'm more likely to pass it off as a weird dream, but if I feel like I've flown out of my body and soared around the room, I'll be likely to mention it because I know that fits the pattern. You say that there are a lot of similarities between (some of) these experiences. What about the differences? Why doesn't everyone have exactly the same experience? Why do only some people have near death experiences in the first place?

And why, when it comes down to it, should we consider that NDEs are evidence of an afterlife anyway? What's supposed to be happening? Are you supposed to be halfway to heaven or something? It seems a sloppy sort of system.

I'm not suggesting that near death experiences are ordinary dreams. I'm not suggesting that there aren't an unusually high number of near death experiences that match the pattern. I know almost nothing about them. I'm just saying that as soon as we start to look at these stories with a critical eye, we find that they raise an awful lot more questions than then answer. We need to answer some of these questions before we even begin to consider NDEs as evidence of god.

Also, why would natural selection result in the pineal gland, which produces this psychedelic drug. Just doesn't make any sense, unless.......


On what basis have you decided that it makes no sense? The body secretes all kinds of drugs into our systems all the time. Is it too much of a stretch to hypothesise that there's survival value in receiving a dose of a drug at times of high stress? Do you really think god is more likely than the evolution of a gland? Perhaps you should a book on evolution to your reading list.

Funny, Skeptic Ginger accused me of not having an imagination, but I'm inclined to think that the ones who are lacking imagination are the atheists because they only see things in black and white.


This is a strawman. Atheists don't as a rule see things in black and white, we have as varied perception of ideas as anyone else. Indeed, if we are atheists because we are skeptics then we are very much more open-minded than the dogmatic religious. We'd change our mind if evidence turned up. Evidence would never change the mind of a dogmatic religious person. If you want an example, think about how you selectively ignored parts of the wikipedia article on the cosmological argument. Besides, you misrepresented Skeptic Ginger's comment. It didn't say you had no imagination, it said that your imagination had failed - by your own admission - in that particular case. Ginger was even kind enough to point out that it wasn't intended as an insult.
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Flatland FYI
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 13, 2010
The first four hits on a Google search for "flatland online text" are links to free access to the full text online.
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written by latsot, July 13, 2010
Don't you see? We aren't back to to made up god myths. I am not making up any gods, only suggesting one might be necessary, but not describing it, i.e., making up one. You deep saying there is no evidence. And I keep saying I know that as well as there is no evidence one doesn't exist. We are only left with intellectual pondering.


You are missing the point. Since we have no evidence for a god, to propose that one exists is to make one up. You don't have to describe something's attributes in order to make it up.

On the contrary, it takes more imagination to attempt to come up with a solution rather than sitting back and saying "I don't Know".


I touched on this point in a previous comment. You seem to be under the impression that 'imagination' is something with a meaningfully measurable quantity, which I doubt is the case. If you make a statement such as "I can't see how that would happen" then it is a failure of your imagination in that particular case. But also, scientists aren't sitting back and saying they don't know, they are using ingenious methods - requring a great deal of imagination - to try and find out. The real failure in imagination here is to accept an explanation that really explains nothing. Deciding for no good reason that a god made the universe does not require a great deal of intellectual effort or imaginative thinking. It's a lot more like giving up than the scientific effort.

A creator, call it what you want, "god of the gaps" , seems a valid possibility.


But valid by what criteria? Certainly not the tediously silly cosmological argument, which you've consistently failed to defend. When questioned on your assumptions, you respond with "because I say so". So when you say "seems a valid possibility" you mean that it seems that way to you, not because you have arrived at that position by valid logical reasoning and verification of assumptions. Or to put it another way, you are asserting the validity of your position for absolutely no good reason whatever.

So your argument that the universe would be different doesn't work because no life could exist.


The fine-tuning of these constants is sometimes overstated. We don't know, for example, what would happen if you twiddle with more than one of the constants at the same time. There might actually be many combinations that could lead to universes that could support life of some kind. Alternatively, it might be the case that only one kind of universe can exist for some reason. We don't know yet. What we do know is that we happen to live in the right kind of universe. How unlikely is it? That is not as straightforward a question as it might seem. We don't know how many universes there are. If there's only one (at the moment) then we don't know how many there might have been in the past. If our universe is only one of many, either concurrently or consecuatively, then fine-tuning argument isn't valid. Either way, we need to know a lot more about the universe before we can use fine-tuning to argue for a god.

So you see, my argument that it is possible that a creator is necessary to direct these constants so that life can exist.


I don't think anyone is arguing with this proposition - that it's *possible* that a creator might turn out to be necessary. They are arguing that there's absolutely no reason to suspect that it's true. If your arguments were watertight, maybe we'd have reason to take the proposition seriously. If there were some evidence, then it would certainly be worth looking into. But until then, it's just another random assertion and it's perfectly safe to assume it's probably not true and not worth paying much attention to.

This is not the same as ruling out any possibility that a god might exist, it's just a sensible, rational position to take.
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As long as the discussion is still civil...
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 13, 2010
But it is getting redundant. I'm not sure my comments are an improvement on latsot's but here they are anyway.

All the quotes are wdunlap's:

"I remember from my science class that all reactions have a cause."

And yet you are fine with no cause for 'God'.

I think you might be confusing a particular law (action-reaction) in physics with some kind of universal, applies to everything law. But even if you aren't confusing action-reaction, we have yet to describe the universal law of physics that unites the large with the quantum worlds. (I'm describing this as a lay person, BTW, my field is infectious disease.) And the laws of physics don't quite hold up when one does the calculations back to the singularity. In addition we cannot make observations of events or what existed before the BB and/or outside the Universe. But these limits merely mean one cannot apply the laws of physics we have established to these situations, and one cannot at this time, know anything about what exists (or doesn't) before the BB or outside the Universe. It doesn't mean nothing existed or that there aren't laws which apply.

"it seems to make sense that it would have to be caused by a supernatural being..."

And yet you cannot finish the sentence, "… because______ " except to repeat circular reasoning.

"If we look at your argument based purely on science and the fact that science cannot find proof, I would tend to agree with you, however, the fact that science has no way of detecting a supernatural being, if one exists, and the fact that a first cause cannot be ruled out and the fact that the constants involved in the forces in the Anthropic Principle require such a narrow parameter that if too strong or too weak, life could not exist period, indicates that a supernatural being may be required."

Notice you totally cherry picked here leaving out the evidence that contradicts your conclusions.

Where did God come from? The only answer could be "It's turtles all the way down". In other words the fact you have no "first cause" for God means your answer is only a facade of an answer. You added a god layer to the question on what started space/time and the Universe, but your answer is no more than a meaningless layer.

You also left out:
that humans make up god beliefs and there is no evidence otherwise,
that there is no evidence humans ever had any real contact with gods,
that all gap god answers to date have been replaced with evidence no god was needed to explain the result,
that the Anthropic Principle argument has been debunked. (If the conditions of the Universe were randomly different we wouldn't be here. That we are here could just mean the conditions were randomly favorable to us being here.)

AND, that a god which is impossible to know would include an absence of the so called "logic" you are using to speculate such a god exists. The paradox there is one would, by definition, be unaware of a god that has no detectable presence. Yet you find it logical to be aware of such a god. (While you keep repeating, you are only saying a god could exist, you contradict that when you say its logical to you the Universe was created by a god.)


Aquina's observation is unsupportable. It's only true for the things we currently observe in the Universe and space time which began in the BB. But beyond that, there is no more logic that things were always here (in some other form than this Universe) than the logic they weren't here and now they are. In fact, an eternal past is more logical since anything you claim was the original thing that came from nothing, one can ask where did that thing come from. For that matter, where did the 'nothing' come from that the space/time expanded into? If you contemplate this question, your head will just spin.

If, OTOH, you answer the question with, "God did it", you are no further than if you just said, "whatever it was did it", because you cannot answer where god came from. Oh, you say, "God was eternally here". Then why couldn't the Universe have been eternally here in some form other than the current space/time?

"I am not making up any gods, only suggesting one might be necessary, but not describing it, i.e., making up one."

[Lewis Black persona] You just made up a god [/Lewis Black]

Not describing it? 'A god one cannot detect' is not a description?

"Unlike you who refuse to entertain such a notion"

This is a straw man. I haven't refused to entertain the god notion. To the contrary I've given it considerable thought. If we didn't have overwhelming evidence gods were human inventions, I'd be agnostic. But being the trained critical thinker that I am, I follow the evidence to the conclusion. I don't start with a conclusion and try to find evidence to fit it.

You ask the question, could gods exist?

I ask the question, what best explains god beliefs?
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written by William, July 14, 2010
No one in this thread is claiming, nor attempting to prove, that God exists. So please, back away from that counterargument.
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written by latsot, July 14, 2010
William,

I'm pretty sure that you're not the sole arbiter of what arguments people are allowed to use on this thread. Besides, it's difficult to tell what 'counterargument' you're referring to.
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written by William, July 14, 2010
latsot-
I was just tired of reading responses such as: "to propose that one [God] exists", "claimed that it's true", "assert that any particular thing-you-have-no-evidence-for-but-can't-disprove is true", "what you are claiming is nonsense", "god belief was certainty", "claim one needs a god".

wdunlap, danieljref, and I never said it was true that God exists. We made no such claim and never attempted to prove it. Yet the arguments against it (including those above and others) seem to think we did. wdunlap is merely arguing that one cannot dismiss the possibility that God is the creator (whatever attributes you want to place on that title/name/label), since we still have that "we don't know" factor. denieljref is only claiming that one can still be a skeptic and believe in a god. I am only claiming I believe in God, and have it intentionally very open as to what that means to me.
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Another post admin is taking a ridiculously long time letting through
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 14, 2010
For some reason admin is reviewing my entries, but taking a bit long to let them through. If this keeps up I think I'll stop commenting. It isn't worth it when the discussion is civil yet one is treated as if one needs supervision.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 15, 2010
written by William, July 14, 2010
wdunlap, danieljref, and I never said it was true that God exists. We made no such claim .... wdunlap is merely arguing that one cannot dismiss the possibility that God is the creator ... since we still have that "we don't know" factor. denieljref is only claiming that one can still be a skeptic and believe in a god. I am only claiming I believe in God, and have it intentionally very open as to what that means ...
How is, "I believe a god exists" not a claim that a god exists?

This is a common viewpoint among Deists and otherwise rational thinkers who believe they have shifted their god belief goalpost off the playing field where no one can reach it. Some people define their god as not interacting with the Universe, covering its tracks, or just being undetectable. Others claim they make no 'testable' claims about their god therefore their god belief is outside the reach of scientific inquiry. Defending one's god belief by claiming the declaration of belief is not the same thing as a declaration a god exists is just another version of saying one believes in a god but makes no testable claims therefore the belief is somehow safe.

I find this untestable god claim problematic for a number of reasons.

First, there were no original historical gods proposed that didn't interact with humans on the planet. One only starts seeing these untestable god descriptions as scientific inquiry successfully challenges god beliefs, one after another.

This suggests describing one's god belief as untestable is a modern rationalization, not a valid god description. Especially since there is no way anyone can be aware of such an undetectable god if the definition is precise. If someone claims to believe in such a god, they are by definition, 'aware' and thus their god description is inconsistent.

Second, these god descriptions falsely use the fact one cannot disprove an undetectable god as evidence for a god existing. That is not what 'cannot disprove' supports.

Third, one can argue such an undetectable god is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant. Such a god would answer no prayers and offer no salvation or eternal life. How would such a god offer any benefits for believing in said god? Said god does not communicate with people. Communicating with people is a conceivably testable claim.

Fourth, and the one aspect of the untestable god hypothesis typically overlooked, is that this god definition ignores all the evidence we have supporting the conclusion people made god beliefs up. Magical gods are KNOWN fictional characters. They exist in all cultures in some form or another. The are explainable as the result of the natural human tendency to draw superstitious based conclusions. There is no evidence for alternate god myth origins such as human contact with real gods. If if walks like a myth, talks like a myth, chances are it is a myth.


To claim you believe in a god, then deny that is a claim that a god exists, seems very disingenuous. Why not just accept your god belief is, by definition, irrational (meaning a belief in something there is no evidence exists). Why insist in jumping through twisted contortions to fit that god belief into ever shrinking scientific knowledge gaps? Why not just admit the scientific evidence is against your god belief being a valid belief, but you are choosing to ignore the evidence in this case? It's not that there is no evidence for your god, it's that the evidence supports the conclusion your god is a fictional being.

But evidence of fiction or not, believe away. That is not the issue. Claiming one's god belief is consistent with the evidence, (or not inconsistent with the evidence), is the problem.
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written by wdunlap, July 15, 2010
Response to IATSOT,
“I hope you'll forgive me if I hesitate to accept your science class as the ultimate authority on the origins of the universe, especially since it didn't seem to teach you the difference between gravity and friction. Causality is more complex than you suppose. “
What’s there to forgive except that your thinking appears to be incorrect. First of all, I wasn’t stating that my science class was giving the origins of the universe, just the concept of cause and effect. Lets look at a simple example. You have a wagon with wheels sitting on a completely flat surface. So long as there is no cause, that wagon doesn’t move. However, if a little kid gives it a push, it will then move. The cause is the kid giving it a push, the result is the movement of the wagon. Soon the wagon stops. Why, what is the cause? Answer gravity. However, if the wagon is sitting at the top of a hill, it will keep going until the hill ends. What is the cause? Again it is gravity. OK, back to the beginning of the universe. You have nothing, and because there is nothing, there is no cause available for matter to appear from nothing. Without this cause, matter cannot appear from nothing. Since you need a cause and there is none when there is nothing, this makes a good argument for a supernatural being needed as the missing cause. Why is this so hard to accept as a possibility?

“You see, here we are again. "It seems reasonable to me" is not an argument, it's pure speculation. I'm supposed to accept that a god invented the universe *solely on your say-so and nothing more*. You do understand, don't you, that even if your logic is sound (it isn't) then you still need to justify your assumptions. This you have not done.”


Yes it is speculation but with provided reason why I feel it is a possibility. Since Science has not been able to show creator or no creator, why should I accept that matter appeared like magic all by itself with no cause? So, you have no ground to stand on when you declare that my logic is not sound. I feel I have justified my assumptions based on my cause/effect argument. So far, you haven’t come up with a counter argument.

“on one hand, we have to accept that there's a supernatural intelligence, which somehow exists even though there's nothing for it to exist in”

Could be that this supernatural intelligence exists somewhere out of space and time.


You seem to be under the impression that if we don't know every detail of some process, we're free to invent whatever nonsense we like to fill the gap’

Wait a minute, I am not inventing anything. I am simply saying that, for need of a cause, a supernatural being is a viable possibility. This is more credible than something coming from nothing and exploding into a big bang all by itself and with no available cause.

“Since you took that passage from Wikipedia, you must have seen the counter-arguments to the cosmological argument there and the explanation of why a first cause isn't necessarily required.”

No, I only saw Aquinas’ arguments and was surprised to find that they were pretty much in line with what I had come up on my own. Still, I think I would be more surprised that someone else hadn’t come up with the idea before me.
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written by wdunlap, July 15, 2010
Reply to IATSOT,

You have addressed a number of points. One is the alien abduction. Funny you should mention that because a number of those given the drug found themselves being probed and investigated by very similar aliens. From another dimension? Whoohooo! Maybe. A number of them felt like they were being forcefully split from their bodies, i.e., separation of mind and body. Many saw a wall of psychedelic colors which when they went through, came up into an area of quiet and then feelings that consciousness does not die, but continues on and a feeling that they did not want to leave this place where the felt a strong feeling of love. Hallucinations? Dreams? That would be a quick and dirty answer since you would think that this was simply drug induced. But is it the correct answer? You say you have had these dreams, but did they feel like dreams or like the real thing? These people felt it was the real thing. The thing I noticed that there were similarities between the experiences. Yes the body secretes all kinds of chemicals, but why a psychedelic drug? Maybe the reason is like you said, to calm us during stress, why does this drug when given intravenously cause very similar experiences of separation of mind and body, unless there is a more "spiritual" reason? Not saying it necessarily is, but it does beg the question.
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written by wdunlap, July 15, 2010
"The first four hits on a Google search for "flatland online text" are links to free access to the full text online. "

Thanks Ginger, I will check it out when I get some free time.
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written by wdunlap, July 15, 2010
Response to IATSOT,

". Since we have no evidence for a god, to propose that one exists is to make one up. "

Yeah, but you have been indicating that by "making it up", that it solely imaginary. I disagree since if it is a possibility it isn't imaginary. Making up something indicates that it isn't there in the first place. You are still hung up on your certainty that a creator doesn't exist that you refuse to entertain the fact that you could be wrong.

"The real failure in imagination here is to accept an explanation that really explains nothing."

Well, it may not explain how it was done but it does explain how something can come from nothing without a cause.
But valid by what criteria? Certainly not the tediously silly cosmological argument, which you've consistently failed to defend. When questioned on your assumptions, you respond with "because I say so". So when you say "seems a valid possibility" you mean that it seems that way to you, not because you have arrived at that position by valid logical reasoning and verification of assumptions. Or to put it another way, you are asserting the validity of your position for absolutely no good reason whatever."

But I have arrived at that position by valid logical reasoning, you just refuse to accept it as such. I am coming up with a possible explanation how we can obtain a cause when there is nothing.

" The fine-tuning of these constants is sometimes overstated. We don't know, for example, what would happen if you twiddle with more than one of the constants at the same time. There might actually be many combinations that could lead to universes that could support life of some kind."

It appears that science would disagree with you. First of all, if you cannot form any compounds, then there is no way life can exist. If planets can't form, then there is no way that life can exist. If hydrogen cannot be formed, then there is no sun. to warm anything. You have to have every single constant for all the forces within extremely narrow ranges. Just one out of sync and life cannot exist period.

"
I don't think anyone is arguing with this proposition - that it's *possible* that a creator might turn out to be necessary. They are arguing that there's absolutely no reason to suspect that it's true. This is not the same as ruling out any possibility that a god might exist, it's just a sensible, rational position to take."

I hate to disagree with you, but I merely need look at matter appearing from nothing and exploding in a big bang with no cause in site to find your position as less than rational. But, though it took a lot of pulling on my part, at least you are admitting that a creator could be a possibility. I also agree that there may be something overlooked that could indicate that a creator was not necessary. But since we cannot yet or may never be able to prove or disprove a creator, we can only, as you say, speculate one way or the other and try to use reason why you feel that wayh.
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Don't expect anything but a civil discussion here
written by wdunlap, July 15, 2010
In response to Skeptic Ginger,

I find it more pleasant having a discussion with atheists since I do not have to worry about stepping on someone's sacred cow. With Christian apologist, they too often get upset and discussion goes out the window, which is a shame.
“we have yet to describe the universal law of physics that unites the large with the quantum worlds.”
OK, somebody has suggested that quantum mechanics could be an explanation of how something could come from nothing. This is the best suggestion I have seen so far. My only problem is that when there is nothing, then quantum mechanics most like could not exist.
“my field is infectious disease.”
Cool!!! Have you noticed any increase in infectious diseases with the indications that average temperatures have been increasing due to ‘Global warming’? I, long time ago was interested in becoming a Veterinarian, but ended up in the field of Systems Analysis. I have developed a interest in various religions, especially the Christian one, all of which show strong evidence to be man-made. Funny, in that book I am reading DMT The Spirit Molecule, there is indications that Buddhism might be legit . Funny, being born over and over until you get it right seems more sensible than the Christian belief that you go around once and either go to heaven or hell for eternity. I also have been reading many books on evolution and listening to college lectures on tape on Quantum Physics and Biology, relativity, etc.
As far as cause and effect, I gave the example of a wagon with wheels on a perfectly flat surface staying put until a little kid pushes it, the cause, or an earthquake makes it move, another cause. Otherwise, it will simply sit there. That is also my argument for something coming from nothing when with nothing there can not be a cause. You have said that maybe the universe has always existed. However, science says no. There was first this extremely compacted matter which expanded rapidly creating space and the universe.
“And yet you cannot finish the sentence, "… because______ " except to repeat circular reasoning.”

No, I simply did not complete the sentence since I have said it so many times already. I stated that since there can be no cause if there is nothing, it makes sense that a creator or supernatural being could be a possibility to fill in the needed cause.

“Where did God come from? The only answer could be "It's turtles all the way down". In other words the fact you have no "first cause" for God means your answer is only a facade of an answer. You added a god layer to the question on what started space/time and the Universe, but your answer is no more than a meaningless layer.”

God may have always existed outside of space and time. Sorry, no turtle. :-)
Have you ever wondered why science has not been able to come up with an answer where the cause came from that started the universe? It could well be because science cannot study supernatural beings and, as a result, science refuses to accept this as a possibility.

“AND, that a god which is impossible to know would include an absence of the so called "logic" you are using to speculate such a god exists. The paradox there is one would, by definition, be unaware of a god that has no detectable presence. Yet you find it logical to be aware of such a god.”

I fail to see why the fact that a god would be impossible to know would indicate that my speculation of its existence is illogical. I am presenting this a valid possibility, but admit that since I don’t have “hard” evidence, that it is only a possibility and not a given.

“For that matter, where did the 'nothing' come from that the space/time expanded into? If you contemplate this question, your head will just spin.”

Actually, I have tried to imagine nothing and it I admit that it makes my head spin.

“'A god one cannot detect' is not a description?”

I have not tried to describe this god other than to state that it could be somewhere outside of space and time.

“I ask the question, what best explains god beliefs?”

Not sure what you are asking here. Myself, I am only indicating a creator might be a necessity. BTW, I am not referring to it as a god, which is something requiring worship
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 15, 2010

written by wdunlap, July 15, 2010
…You have a wagon with wheels sitting on a completely flat surface. So long as there is no cause, that wagon doesn’t move. However, if a little kid gives it a push, it will then move….
OK, back to the beginning of the universe. You have nothing, and because there is nothing, there is no cause available for matter to appear from nothing. Without this cause, matter cannot appear from nothing. Since you need a cause and there is none when there is nothing, this makes a good argument for a supernatural being needed as the missing cause. Why is this so hard to accept as a possibility?
The problems with your logic have been pointed out, but you ignore those points and simply repeat yourself. It would help if you'd at least address the problems with your thinking here, rather than continuing to just assert that there are no flaws in your rationale.

First problem: Your analogy is flawed.

We don't know that there was "nothing" before the Big Bang. The model of the Universe is that there was no space and no time. The model is not that there was not 'something' that occupied no space. All the contents of the Universe either occupied no space, or it occupied an infinitely small space.

It is difficult for us to contemplate something that occupies no space. Just as it is difficult to contemplate 11 dimensions, infinite space, and a Universe with no center and no edges. And you are contemplating something different than the models when you imagine that 'something' which occupies no space is the same thing as 'nothing'.

Second problem: You refuse to address the 'first cause' of your 'first cause'.

If your sole rationale in proposing the 'god did it' hypothesis is the need for a 'first cause', then that same logic has to also apply to the 'first cause' of your 'first cause'. If not turtles all the way down, are you suggesting it is gods all the way down?

Or are you saying that the Universe needs a first cause, but the god you propose does not? You can't have it both ways.


Yes it is speculation but with provided reason why I feel it is a possibility. Since Science has not been able to show creator or no creator, why should I accept that matter appeared like magic all by itself with no cause? So, you have no ground to stand on when you declare that my logic is not sound. I feel I have justified my assumptions based on my cause/effect argument. So far, you haven’t come up with a counter argument.
It's is not that no counter-arguments have been pointed out. It is that you are ignoring the counter-arguments.

Could be that this supernatural intelligence exists somewhere out of space and time.
It is consistent with the evidence supported model that the components of the Universe existed outside space and time. It is inconsistent with the evidence that a supernatural intelligence was any part or quality of what existed.


I am not inventing anything. I am simply saying that, for need of a cause, a supernatural being is a viable possibility.
You are inventing a supernatural being. Describing it as a possibility or claiming it exists are both still versions of 'inventing' your explanation.

This is more credible than something coming from nothing and exploding into a big bang all by itself and with no available cause.
Except that your concept of the Universe coming from "nothing" is not exactly what the model includes. The model is that there was no space or time. Beyond that, the model does not include the nature of the Universe as it existed occupying no space. We only know the evidence is no space was occupied. While it is natural to think this also means 'nothing' existed, our inability to conceptualize a Universe occupying no space is really all we can say. But a Universe occupying no space is not the same thing as 'nothing'.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 15, 2010
wdunlap
if it is a possibility it isn't imaginary. Making up something indicates that it isn't there in the first place. You are still hung up on your certainty that a creator doesn't exist that you refuse to entertain the fact that you could be wrong.
I'd love to resolve this disagreement, but it appears unlikely we will.

You can't see the error in your logic so you don't believe it is there. And you can't accept that I and latsot don't believe in gods because we have carefully analyzed the evidence, so you dismiss our disbelief with the straw man that we "refuse to entertain" the idea. By the same token, my statement that you cannot see and cannot accept sound like the same argument you are making against our conclusions. That's a dilemma I run into often when trying to get at the underlying cause of a disagreement.

But I know that the "refuse to entertain" charge is a straw man. I have carefully examined the evidence against gods existing. It is objective measurable tangible evidence, not speculation and 'possibilities'. The evidence is undeniable that people invented thousands of god myths. And there are many conclusions which are applied to the whole when less than "thousands" of examples all result in the same conclusion. It doesn't take a thousand tree species to recognize a trunk with bark, branches and leaves is a tree species.

As to your claim that something possible is therefore not imaginary, you appear to be operating on different definitions of imaginary and possible than I am (and I think than latsot is as well). A unicorn is just as possible as a god, so does that mean a unicorn is not imaginary? Can you tell us something that is imaginary by your definition if you don't think gods are imaginary?

it may not explain how it was done but it does explain how something can come from nothing without a cause.
Not if you have no cause for your cause.
But I have arrived at that position by valid logical reasoning, you just refuse to accept it as such.
It's not valid or logical for the reasons we've pointed out to you, not because we "refuse" to consider your ideas without a reason.

if you cannot form any compounds, then there is no way life can exist. If planets can't form, then there is no way that life can exist. If hydrogen cannot be formed, then there is no sun. to warm anything. You have to have every single constant for all the forces within extremely narrow ranges. Just one out of sync and life cannot exist period.
This argument has been debunked. You are repeating what you read or heard from a source promoting god beliefs. You cannot support this claim with actual knowledge of physics and the Universe. It's time to stop repeating it unless you can actually discuss it with more than superficial expertise.

But since we cannot yet or may never be able to prove or disprove a creator, we can only, as you say, speculate one way or the other
This ignores all the evidence gods are myths and gap gods have repeatedly been discarded as explanations. You are trying to fit your conclusion to the evidence. The scientific process and rational thinking is to follow the evidence to the conclusion, not the other way around.

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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 15, 2010
Have you noticed any increase in infectious diseases with the indications that average temperatures have been increasing due to ‘Global warming’?
Climate change means infectious disease patterns will also shift. Today's news of Dengue fever in Florida is likely to be just the beginning of a shift of mosquito species habitat that will bring tropical mosquito borne infections further north. In the tropics, such diseases will move to higher altitudes than they currently occur in. Animal populations made less healthy as their habitat changes faster than they can adapt will also leave some animals more prone to opportunistic infections. Such events can amplify pathogen numbers.

But this is only one aspect of the changing infectious disease landscape. Change is inevitable whether it is a new pathogen emerging or the results of changing environment or a disease spread as human migration or lifestyles change. The highway, for example, that was built across Uganda resulted in the HIV spreading out of a confined location to become a worldwide pandemic. The virus traveled by way of truckers and prostitution, eventually spreading via air travel. smilies/cool.gif


Back to the discussion at hand:
somebody has suggested that quantum mechanics could be an explanation of how something could come from nothing. This is the best suggestion I have seen so far. My only problem is that when there is nothing, then quantum mechanics most like could not exist.
Quantum science is revealing many things about matter, energy and 'impossibile' to contemplate things about the Universe. It provides a good example of 'nothing' not really being the same 'nothing we usually think the word means.

God may have always existed outside of space and time. Sorry, no turtle. :-)
Have you ever wondered why science has not been able to come up with an answer where the cause came from that started the universe? It could well be because science cannot study supernatural beings ...
I don't wonder why we cannot currently observe events before the Big Bang or outside the Universe with the science tools we have today because I understand that aspect of the nature of the Universe. Have you ever wondered why you accept that a god could exist outside the space time of our Universe, while at the same time you don't accept that the elements which make up the current Universe could have existed in some form before expanding into current space time?


I fail to see why the fact that a god would be impossible to know would indicate that my speculation of its existence is illogical. I am presenting this a valid possibility, but admit that since I don’t have “hard” evidence, that it is only a possibility and not a given.
How can you be aware of a god no one is aware of?

I have not tried to describe this god other than to state that it could be somewhere outside of space and time.
This is still a description.

Not sure what you are asking here.
I'm asking you to follow the evidence. Human history is full of mythical gods, is it not? Why explain god beliefs any other way than as a myth?

Myself, I am only indicating a creator might be a necessity.
Your reasoning is flawed even though you don't see why.

BTW, I am not referring to it as a god, which is something requiring worship
I realize that.
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This answer is particularly tricky and needed its own space
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 15, 2010
and, as a result, science refuses to accept this as a possibility.
If we can't come to an agreement about gods in this discussion, at a minimum you really do need to quit claiming that people who don't agree with you disagree because they refuse to consider 'supernatural' causes. This is a really annoying straw man.

The movie, "Expelled" and a lot of the people arguing against teaching evolution theory in public schools make the false claim that science excludes god hypotheses and supernatural causes for no reason.

And we don't do ourselves any favors when our own members take the unhelpful position that science cannot test for designers or test the supernatural. Regardless, that is a useless argument which only serves to confuse the lay public. It sounded good (and still does unfortunately) to many rational thinkers to put god beliefs in a separate category thus avoiding having to deal with rational thinkers who maintain a skeptical blindspot for god beliefs.

The actual scientific position is that these things are not supported by evidence. If the claim is, something exists but there is no evidence supporting that claim, then what is there to test? But when it comes to gods and supernatural things people believe in today, there actually are things one can test. I've discussed that.

You test enough god beliefs and find myth after myth. Like anything else where evidence supports the conclusion, you are looking at a pattern, you can at some point conclude the pattern is established. The pattern will apply to the group. You don't need to individually test every single thing in the group.

If/when new evidence is found one can reconsider the conclusions one has drawn about gods and ghosts and so on. One is by no means "refusing" to accept new evidence because one has drawn a current conclusion of fact any more than geologists of the day who considered it a fact that the Earth's crust was solid refused to accept new evidence for plate tectonics. Or microbiologists who considered it a fact that excess stomach acid caused ulcers refused to accept new evidence that bacteria caused ulcers.

There have been many things throughout history considered facts which turned out not to be correct when new evidence supported a paradigm shift. But would it be wise to say, it is only a theory the Earth is round? Believe it or not the 'fact' the Earth's crust was solid, and the 'fact' stomach acid caused ulcers were just as 'obvious' as the 'fact' the Earth is round.

And that's OK. It doesn't mean the scientific method is flawed and it doesn't mean we cannot operate under the assumption that certain evidence supported conclusions reach the level of being considered a 'fact'. Not everything is supported by this level of confidence in the evidence. But of the things that are, acting on these conclusions as facts does not go against the scientific process. And more importantly for this discussion, calling something a fact does not mean you 'refuse' to consider any contradictory evidence.

It wouldn't make sense to say the shape of the Earth was a theory. By by the strictest scientific principles, every 'fact' is subject to change, even the fact the Earth is round. But concluding something is a fact because the evidence is that strong does not mean one refuses to consider any other possibility. Concluding the evidence is strong enough to conclude gods are mythical beings people invented and there is no evidence to the contrary doesn't say I refuse to consider gods might exist.

It does say that you have not presented convincing evidence to the contrary. You have tried to rationalize your belief a god could exist. And clearly you believe you have done so. But what you've presented is only circular reasoning. The problem is not that scientists, rational thinkers, I or latsot 'refuse' to consider gods might exist.
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written by latsot, July 15, 2010
wdunlap:
What’s there to forgive except that your thinking appears to be incorrect. First of all, I wasn’t stating that my science class was giving the origins of the universe, just the concept of cause and effect.


You base your argument about the origins of the universe on what you remember from your science class. I was being slightly glib in an attempt to demonstrate that your argument has no evidence, a point I elaborated on later.

Lets look at a simple example.


Your continued misunderstanding of gravity and friction notwithstanding, this isn't a good example. As Skeptic Ginger has pointed out, the same laws of physics don't apply in a very young universe. They also don't apply at very small scales. There's no reason to assume they would apply at the universe's origin. Also, just because you can show that ONE CASE of effect requires cause, why would you conclude that ALL POSSSIBLE CASES do?

Since you need a cause and there is none when there is nothing, this makes a good argument for a supernatural being needed as the missing cause. Why is this so hard to accept as a possibility?


OK, two things here. First, I understand your argument. I really do. There's no need to keep repeating it. The argument and its assumptions are false as I and many, many others over the years have shown.

Second, as I've repeatedly said, I *do* accept it as a possibility. However, the probability of it is so vanishingly, ludicrously, ridiculously small that it's not worth taking seriously.

Yes it is speculation but with provided reason why I feel it is a possibility.


I understand that you personally feel it's a possibility, but that's not very helpful. It's not an argument, it's an opinion. I can't get excited about anyone's opinion, including my own. If we're to be rational, we have to go where the evidence takes us and the evidence does not point at a creator. It points against a creator, since such a thing would be so much less likely than some alternatives.

Since Science has not been able to show creator or no creator, why should I accept that matter appeared like magic all by itself with no cause?


Because we already know that things can happen with no cause, despite your science class. This is something we *can* detect. It's something we can explain. It has nothing to do with not being able to find a creator, it has to with one explanation being *vastly* more likely than the other.

So, you have no ground to stand on when you declare that my logic is not sound. I feel I have justified my assumptions based on my cause/effect argument. So far, you haven’t come up with a counter argument.


This is an astonishing collection of statements.

1. I have shown that your assumptions are not valid. Your assertion that nothing can happen without cause is just that: an assertion. It is *incorrect*. Your inability to google shouldn't be taken as validation of your assumptions.

2. There is no reason to suppose that if a first cause *does* turn out to be necessary then an intelligence must be responsible. Again, that is just an assertion without evidence and an invalid logical conclusion.

Thus, your logic is faulty and and your assumptions are faulty. What else do I have to do to demonstrate that you're wrong?

Could be that this supernatural intelligence exists somewhere out of space and time.


Could be, but then first we'd have to understand what that even means and we'd *still* have the problem of where the creator came from.

Wait a minute, I am not inventing anything.


Oh not this again. I've no desire to argue semantics with you. However, you ignored the point I was actually making, which was that you're saying that since we can't prove a god doesn't exist, then there's a good reason to believe it does. As lots of people have pointed out, this is not a valid argument. Think invisible pink unicorn. Thing flying spaghetti monster. If you can't think, google.

No, I only saw Aquinas’ arguments and was surprised to find that they were pretty much in line with what I had come up on my own. Still, I think I would be more surprised that someone else hadn’t come up with the idea before me.


So you didn't even read the full article? You didn't see the WHOLE SECTION on counter-arguments? Wow. That's a pretty extreme case of not wanting your assumptions to be challenged.
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written by latsot, July 15, 2010
wdunlap:
Yeah, but you have been indicating that by "making it up", that it solely imaginary.


No, I've said that "making it up" is to propose an idea when there is absolutely no good reason to do so.

I disagree since if it is a possibility it isn't imaginary.


WHOAH, back up there! So The invisible pink unicorn isn't imaginary? The Flying Spaghetti Monster and Russell's teapot exist, because they are a possibility? Is that really what you mean?

You are still hung up on your certainty that a creator doesn't exist that you refuse to entertain the fact that you could be wrong.


By this stage, this is just a plain lie. You know perfectly well that I've stated repeatedly that I accept the possibility of a creator, but evidence leads me to the conclusion that the probability of a creator is too small to make the idea worth taking seriously. As I've also repeatedly said, if there were some evidence, I'd change my mind.

Well, it may not explain how it was done but it does explain how something can come from nothing without a cause.


It doesn't explain a thing. It's using magic so you don't *have* to explain anything. There are *already* ways to explain how things can happen without a cause. We call it 'physics'.

But I have arrived at that position by valid logical reasoning, you just refuse to accept it as such.


It's not a question of whether I accept your logic as valid. It's not a matter of opinion. I've shown why it's wrong and you haven't shown why it's right or why my counter-arguments are wrong.

You have to have every single constant for all the forces within extremely narrow ranges. Just one out of sync and life cannot exist period.


This is the overstatement I'm referring to. If you change one of the parameters, then the universe breaks. But we don't know what happens if we change several of the parameters at once. We don't know whether there are lots of combinations of parameters that could lead to a life-supporting universe. We just know that if you twiddle one of the knobs in our universe, we'd break it.

I hate to disagree with you, but I merely need look at matter appearing from nothing and exploding in a big bang with no cause in site to find your position as less than rational.


Isn't that just because you refuse to accept that something could happen without a cause? Isn't that just what you're (falsely) accusing me and others of wrt a creator? Can't *you* accept the possibility that there might be an effect without a cause? If you can, what's stopping you looking it up?

But, though it took a lot of pulling on my part, at least you are admitting that a creator could be a possibility.


Don't flatter yourself. I have always taken that position.

I also agree that there may be something overlooked that could indicate that a creator was not necessary. But since we cannot yet or may never be able to prove or disprove a creator, we can only, as you say, speculate one way or the other and try to use reason why you feel that wayh.


I did't say that at all. It is a complete misrepresentation of my stance. We are *free* to speculate, but we are also free to do lots of other, more useful things, such as look for evidence.
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written by latsot, July 18, 2010
http://www.infidels.org/librar...alism.html

This is pertinent to the discussion about whether science can address the supernatural (H/T Ophelia Benson at Butterflies and Wheels).

The abstract reads:


I conclude that the relationship between methodological and philosophical naturalism, while not one of logical entailment, is the only reasonable metaphysical conclusion given (1) the demonstrated success of methodological naturalism, combined with (2) the massive amount of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of evidence for the supernatural. The above factors together provide solid grounding for philosophical naturalism, while supernaturalism remains little more than a logical possibility.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 18, 2010
An interesting article, latsot.

I think I might change the last line of the abstract to "supernaturalism remains little more than an illogical possibility"

The conclusion also has a phrase that confuses me. I bolded it below.

To say that we live in a natural world, situated in a universe governed by natural laws, even if these laws are considered nothing more than invariable regularities, is to say a great deal, the major points of which are specified by Kurtz:

Today, it is possible to defend ... naturalism ... on empirical scientific grounds. Naturalism thus provides a cosmic interpretation of nature. The universe is basically physical-chemical or material in structure, it is evolving in time; human life is continuous with other natural processes and can be explained in terms of them. To defend naturalism today is to say something significant, for it is an alternative to supernaturalism ... [which] is unsupported by scientific evidence.[46]

This means that we are saying--again, tentatively rather than categorically--that we do not live in a supernaturally governed cosmos, and every expansion of scientific understanding, especially the understanding of human existence, e.g., of consciousness and the origin of life, solidifies and confirms this denial.

Science, because of its reliance upon methodological naturalism, lends no support to belief in the supernatural. Consequently, philosophical naturalism, because of its own grounding in methodological naturalism, has no room for it either. While for the supernaturalist, this absence may be the chief complaint against both science and methodological naturalism, for the philosophical naturalist, it is the source of the greatest confidence in both.
If everything solidifies and confirms the Universe is natural and not supernatural, when is it time to quit calling this conclusion "tentative"?

The issue I have here is the same one I have with agnosticism. With everything else evaluated by the scientific process, one can entertain and discuss unsupported hypotheses, but we don't do so by creating manufactured categories and claim by some double standard that one would not use the scientific process to evaluate this particular hypothesis. I see no reason not to apply philosophical naturalism to any claim, including supposed 'supernatural' claims.
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Admin back to screening posts
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 18, 2010
You'll have to wait for my innocuous reply to your link, latsot. smilies/cry.gif
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ginger, s
written by latsot, July 18, 2010
You'll have to wait for my innocuous reply to your link, latsot.


Indeed. We'll have to wait longer for a comment from the JREF. This is unfortunate. And by longer I mean it won't happen anymore
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 18, 2010
I've enjoyed the discussion. My screened comment now shows above my comment about waiting.
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written by wdunlap, July 18, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,
"We don't know that there was "nothing" before the Big Bang. The model of the Universe is that there was no space and no time. The model is not that there was not 'something' that occupied no space. All the contents of the Universe either occupied no space, or it occupied an infinitely small space. "


OK, I will buy this as a possibility that matter always existed. Next problem. What caused the rapid expansion to occur?


We don't know that there was "nothing" before the Big Bang. The model of the Universe is that there was no space and no time. The model is not that there was not 'something' that occupied no space. All the contents of the Universe either occupied no space, or it occupied an infinitely small space. "

Easy, the first cause, a creator, like your matter, always existed. Remember, it was the "first cause".

I'm not sure what you were saying, but the possibility of a creator existing outside of space and time cannot be observed by science, but that doesn't mean it isn't so.

"
You are inventing a supernatural being. Describing it as a possibility or claiming it exists are both still versions of 'inventing' your explanation."

According to Webster's dictionary, invent means:
a product of the imagination; especially : a false conception

To say my creator speculation is a false conception is wrong since you cannot show me that this cannot be a possibility.

"Except that your concept of the Universe coming from "nothing" is not exactly what the model includes. The model is that there was no space or time. Beyond that, the model does not include the nature of the Universe as it existed occupying no space. We only know the evidence is no space was occupied. "

I have read accounts where it is believed that before the universe, nothing existed. But I will give you that as a possibility since no one was there and can say for sure.
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written by wdunlap, July 18, 2010
"I have carefully examined the evidence against gods existing. It is objective measurable tangible evidence, not speculation and 'possibilities'."

You have merely looked at people's attempt to describe a god or mistakenly thought that a god caused something when there was a natural explanation, but this does not provide evidence that a god or creator does not exist as the first cause. Science cannot make this determination. How can you?

"). A unicorn is just as possible as a god, so does that mean a unicorn is not imaginary?"

The problem with this reasoning is that a unicorn has never shown up in fossil records. A god doesn't not leave any physical evidence of itself.

"This argument has been debunked. You are repeating what you read or heard from a source promoting god beliefs."

Show me where this has been debunked. You say I got this from a source promoting god beliefs. I got it from Kenneth E. Miller who wrote one of the best books explaining evolution, Searching for Darwin's God.

"This ignores all the evidence gods are myths and gap gods have repeatedly been discarded as explanations. You are trying to fit your conclusion to the evidence. The scientific process and rational thinking is to follow the evidence to the conclusion, not the other way around."

You are still ignoring the fact that a creator could be the answer to how all things started. Also, science is not designed to prove or disprove the supernatural.

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Dishonesty or Willful Ignorance?
written by DataJack, July 18, 2010
wdunlap said:

"According to Webster's dictionary, invent means:
a product of the imagination; especially : a false conception

To say my creator speculation is a false conception is wrong since you cannot show me that this cannot be a possibility."

Why can't theists EVER be honest? Invent also means to create something, and everybody know this. Did Thomas Edison create a false conception of a light bulb? No, he created a light bulb.

You invented a creator. You came up with the idea that a creator could be what started the universe (a god of the gaps). There is no evidence to point to it, therefore you made it up.

It is completely unneeded. There is no evidence or valid line of reasoning to say the first cause had to be intelligent, eternal, or even sentient.

Out time started with the Big Bang. Whatever caused the Big Bang, by definition, violates causality with respect to time within the Universe. Giving that "first cause" attributes that cannot be measured ("eternal", "intelligent", or "uncaused") is as foolish as saying it is "bearded", "robed", or "likes the smell of burning animals".

There is no evidence to indicate what the attributes of the first cause are. Therefore, to assign evidence is exactly equal to guessing.
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Completely Made Up
written by DataJack, July 18, 2010
You have defined a category of beings ("supernatural") whose one attribute would seem to be that they cannot be detected or measured by the one thing we use to detect and measure every thing (science). Then you populate that category with one being (god) and give him attributes that cannot be measured either (can create the universe, lives outside the universe, always existed, etc.).

Why can't you see that this is wholly unnecessary?

Also, in reference to your Unicorn quote above ("we would have evidence in the fossil record"). You failed to take into account the fact that Unicorns, too, are supernatural. Therefore, the do not die, but rather, turn into rainbows when they tire of chasing butterflies. You can't prove it's not true!

See how easy that is? And how pointless? Accepting a made-up explanation because we don't (yet) know the actual explanation is sloppy thinking. Period.
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written by wdunlap, July 18, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,
I was afraid that the warmer weather would allow for increased spread of diseases. Hopefully, we will continue to hold them off. Yet, we cannot protect all the wildlife. The big problem is that microbes evolve faster than more complex life, so that is a concern. I believe I heard in the news that science has come up with a dna manipulated antibiotic against HIV.

"Quantum science is revealing many things about matter, energy and 'impossibile' to contemplate things about the Universe. It provides a good example of 'nothing' not really being the same 'nothing we usually think the word means."

Well, that is definitely a possible solution. I believe I read somewhere that some physicists believe that it can explain something from nothing. So, who knows. Still, I am not ready to simply close my eyes and say a supernatural being is not a possibility. Still, this is like saying that quantum physics is some sort of intelligent being.

"Have you ever wondered why you accept that a god could exist outside the space time of our Universe, while at the same time you don't accept that the elements which make up the current Universe could have existed in some form before expanding into current space time? "

How could elements exist before the big bang when everything was compressed with no space? Therefore, atoms couldn't exist since they would be too compressed. Ever wonder how these atoms just simply formed after the big bang and all those constants presented themselves within all those extremely narrow parameters?

"How can you be aware of a god no one is aware of?"

There are people who claim to have communicated with God. I didn't say I was aware of a god, only that one seems necessary.

"I'm asking you to follow the evidence. Human history is full of mythical gods, is it not? Why explain god beliefs any other way than as a myth?"

If a god doesn't wish to make itself known, then the fact that people have been speculating what a god is like and are wrong doesn't make this god any less likely to exist. And it certainly is not evidence that a god doesn't exist. So, your reasoning is flawed.

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written by wdunlap, July 18, 2010
"in this discussion, at a minimum you really do need to quit claiming that people who don't agree with you disagree because they refuse to consider 'supernatural' causes. This is a really annoying straw man."

Wait a minute, you have been arguing all along that you have evidence that gods do not exist, yet when I take you to task that you refuse to consider a supernatural cause, you say that is a straw man argument. Are you then saying that you accept a supernatural being as a possibility?

"And we don't do ourselves any favors when our own members take the unhelpful position that science cannot test for designers or test the supernatural."

Science cannot test the supernatural. How can it?

"The actual scientific position is that these things are not supported by evidence. "

Tell me then how science can show evidence whether or not the first cause was a creator?

". Like anything else where evidence supports the conclusion, you are looking at a pattern, you can at some point conclude the pattern is established. The pattern will apply to the group. You don't need to individually test every single thing in the group. "

The pattern you are seeing is that people trying to figure out what a god is like, have failed to do so. Science, on the other hand cannot disprove that a creator didn't start it all.

Look, I am not saying you are wrong. Science is definitely the best way to obtain natural answers, but if fails when it comes to the supernatural. I guess, if this supernatural being exists, then we can't know if it does unless it wishes to make itself known. There are those who claim to obtain spiritual awakenings. Can science determine if this is pure imagination? There are those who die on the operating table and meet a warm and loving being of light and love ones who have died. Do we know for sure that this is nothing but a hallucination? Some have claimed to meet someone who they recently saw alive only to find out when they came back to life that that person had just died. I will give you this. It could be invented. Still, when I was still a Christian, my pastor brought in people from a organization of people who had life after death experiences. Children who have drowned and been brought back, had stories of meeting a loving being of light or in a clown suit. Hallucination? Maybe, but can we be so sure?

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written by William, July 18, 2010
Science, as we measure it, is based wholly on what we understand of it. If a god exists outside of our understanding of science, we cannot measure it.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 18, 2010
written by William, July 18, 2010
Science, as we measure it, is based wholly on what we understand of it. If a god exists outside of our understanding of science, we cannot measure it.
Science is a process. I don't use the word as you are using it here. But nonetheless, we can assess the evidence surrounding god beliefs using the scientific process and draw a reasonable conclusion that god beliefs are the result of human imagination. After investigating hundreds of god myths and determining each god is a mythical entity, after not finding any god beliefs which are not explained as human inventions, and after finding no evidence of any real gods, we can draw a reasonable scientific conclusion, gods are mythical beings.

You and wdunlap may choose not to do that. But as for myself, I have no problem using the scientific process and following the evidence to my conclusion about god beliefs rather than starting with any conclusion about god beliefs and trying to fit the evidence to that conclusion.
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The essence of the debate:
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 18, 2010
Wdunlap, there's a lot of repetition, both within your posts and with the discussion in general. I find that kind of repetition hampers getting at the real gist of the issue. So allow me to cut to the chase here.

You continue to argue your god of the gaps hypothesis stating that you personally prefer to put a god of the gap into the initiation of the Big Bang, or at a minimum, you think we are wrong to deny you that hypothesis on scientific grounds.

But you have not addressed the problem that adding a god layer provides no essential answers unless you can provide evidence of where the god you speak of originated.

And you have not addressed the problem you have of no evidence. Your hypothesis, "a gap god fits here", is a conclusion. "A gap god fits here" is not evidence.



As for my challenge to you that evidence supports the conclusion people have made up every god belief we've examined, you use filtering words for my argument like, "refuse to consider", while I use the words, "the evidence supports".

You came closest to addressing my specific challenge with this answer:
You have merely looked at people's attempt to describe a god or mistakenly thought that a god caused something when there was a natural explanation, but this does not provide evidence that a god or creator does not exist as the first cause. Science cannot make this determination. How can you?
People's "attempts to describe a god" are all we have. Do you have one single thing besides people's descriptions of gods, including your own, to support your hypothesis, "a god exists"? (Don't get sidetracked with the wording, "a god could exist". The word, 'hypothesis', takes care of the word, 'could', for you.)

"Hundreds of examples of mythical gods" is the evidence. There is a complete absence of evidence for any gods except mythical gods. The conclusion is reasonable based on that evidence and lack of contradictory evidence that, "all gods are mythical".
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written by latsot, July 18, 2010
wdunlap, you are flogging a dead unicorn.

Science cannot test the supernatural. How can it?


It can test *claims* of the supernatural. How can't it?

It can test anything that can be observed. In some circumstances, it can even test things that can't be observed. For example, if we can show that there's no need for a first cause and we can show that all god claims so far have been false, then we can conclude (with implicit acknowledgement that we might be wrong) that there's almostcertainly no god.

It's true that for a sufficiently undetectable god, science can't rule out the possibility entirely. Why would it even try?

We agree so far, yes?

But this is where you go off the deep end. You place *far* too much importance on the fact that science can't rule out a god that couldn't be observed.

The fact that a proposition can't be ruled out is not a good reason to believe it. This is why the unicorn example is a good one and you have it exactly the wrong way around with your fossils argument. There's no good reason to believe in unicorns *BECAUSE* nobody has seen one and there are no fossils.

There's no good reason to believe in a creator for exactly the same reason.

Let's spell this out again to aid your selective memory: NOBODY HERE IS CLAIMING THAT THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY THAT A CREATOR EXISTS. But people like me are saying that the possibility that a creator exists is irrelevant because there's no good reason to believe it. Or in unicorns. Or spaghetti monsters. Or orbiting teapots.

Show me where this has been debunked.


Is there a point? You've already demonstrated that you are physically unable to see large pieces of text that debunk the cosmological agrument perfectly well, both on this blog and on Wikipedia. But if you genuinely have an open mind (which increasingly seems unlikely) then why don't you just go right ahead and GOOGLE it? Why do you need someone to do your skeptical work for you? You don't even need to go further than wikipedia to get you started. And there are references! Go and do your homework, then come back and explain why you're right and those references are wrong.

You say I got this from a source promoting god beliefs. I got it from Kenneth E. Miller who wrote one of the best books explaining evolution, Searching for Darwin's God.


Miller is mistaken. He's a scientist in the same category as Gay: someone who is able to apply skepticism to some parts of his life but - for some reason - not to others.

Also, science is not designed to prove or disprove the supernatural.


It is designed to test testable claims. 'Natural' and 'supernatural' are just labels that are at best meaningless and at worst unhelpful in this context. Let's take ghosts as an example. We can scientifically test claims about ghosts and if it should turn out that they exist, what would we do? We'd reclassify them as 'natural'. As usual, you've got it the wrong way round: science doesn't study natural things, the things science studies are natural.

But this is a distraction. You *still* haven't directly answered a single criticism of your arguments other than by simply repeating the argument as if that will somehow make it true or by flatly asserting that you're right. At the very least, we've given you enough information to go and look this stuff up. You could have come back with stronger versions of the argument or - more honestly - come back and admitted that the argument has been debunked. Russell, for example, left the argument bloody in the street and his writing is superbly accessible. In fact, I'd be very much surprised if you can't find him talking about it on YouTube.
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written by latsot, July 18, 2010
You don't even need to go further than wikipedia to get you started. And there are references!


I should clarify that I was talking about the fine tuning argument here. Look, wdunlap, that's a search term you could try in wikipedia!
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written by latsot, July 18, 2010
I think I might change the last line of the abstract to "supernaturalism remains little more than an illogical possibility"


Well, technically it's a logical possibility, but I agree that your version describes the reality better.

If everything solidifies and confirms the Universe is natural and not supernatural, when is it time to quit calling this conclusion "tentative"?


Yeah, it's philosophy jargon. It refers more to the style of the argument than to how certain we can be about the conclusion. It's a bit confusing in this context.

The issue I have here is the same one I have with agnosticism. With everything else evaluated by the scientific process, one can entertain and discuss unsupported hypotheses, but we don't do so by creating manufactured categories and claim by some double standard that one would not use the scientific process to evaluate this particular hypothesis. I see no reason not to apply philosophical naturalism to any claim, including supposed 'supernatural' claims.


I agree, although there is more than one variety of agnostic. I'm technically agnostic, but I identify as an atheist. I accept the possibility of god in the same way that I accept the possibility of faries, ghosts and other nonsense. That is, I won't believe in them until I see sufficient evidence. I won't even take the idea seriously unless there's a good reason. I'm therefore as near to being an atheist as makes no difference, which is why I call myself one. The agnostics I disagree with are the ones who wrestle themselves into believing that there are equal or roughly equal chances of god existing or not. As you say, this is special pleading and it makes no sense at all.

The 'supernatural' flag is used to wave in our faces to try and distract us. "Science can't test supernatural stuff" is a meaningless statement. It's yet another get out of jail free card, the ultimate god-gap. My suspicion is that many of the people who make this argument know this. It's their way of avoiding difficult questions.
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written by latsot, July 19, 2010
That others take different approaches is something PZ doesn't seem to like.


By the way, I can't believe we allowed DJ to get away with this. He doesn't justify the statement at all. It's bitchy and dishonest. It doesn't follow from the paragraph above and it doesn't lead into the one below.

As it happens, PZ *encourages* different approaches to atheism, doesn't he?

I meant to say this ages ago but I got distracted by other people's wrongness.
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When an argument fails to convince
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 19, 2010
DJ: "That others take different approaches is something PZ doesn't seem to like."
This is similar rationalization to saying, "It's not that I'm wrong, it's that you refuse to consider my argument". It gets tricky because sometimes that is a valid statement and other times it isn't. So one can find oneself dismissing such a charge against oneself while at the same time pointing out to another the refusal to address or consider a particular point.

The human brain organizes information in such a way that everything is categorized and interpreted before it is actually consciously considered. So wdunlap, for example, cannot easily 'hear' the point that his god hypothesis is unsupported. Wdunlap categorizes his 'first cause' rationalization as 'evidence' when it is not. He has said in essence that he cannot 'hear' the information that his god conjecture is imaginary because as he described here, he equates imaginary with "a false conception".

These are just a couple examples of mechanisms by which one's brain filters the facts it encounters. What a rational thinker needs to do about this brain trait is keep the issue in the forefront. I can articulate that a 'first cause rationale' is a conclusion, not evidence on which to base a conclusion. Besides simple basing god of the gaps arguments on anything science has yet to answer, it is a common rationale or tactic by god believers to use incredulity as the basis for their god beliefs. It's not just that science has no answer, it's that the believer cannot fathom an answer without resorting to a magical god. This is the position wdunlap has taken here. And we know from previous analysis of this kind of argument that it is not an evidence based argument. Incredulity is not evidence.

Then there was the accusation I "refused" to consider a supernatural explanation. This is in the same vein as your quote from DJ accusing PZ of not liking alternative approaches. I imagine PZ, like myself, maintains the principle of requiring evidence for a conclusion. I suppose one could throw the same ball back to a theist's court and point out they refuse to accept the fact evidence is needed to base a belief on. By that token, it may be true I refuse to accept supernatural (meaning beliefs based on nothing) explanations and PZ probably doesn't like a non-evidence based approach to describing the Universe.

But the correct way to describe what I'm referring to here is not "refusing" or "dislike". The more precise description is that one does not accept unsupported imaginary explanations.
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written by latsot, July 20, 2010
Skeptic Ginger:
This is similar rationalization to saying, "It's not that I'm wrong, it's that you refuse to consider my argument".


That's the way I took it and it's a dissapointing thing to see from the JREF president. PZ isn't shy about his views. If he's said or demonstrated that he's not happy about approaches to atheism other than his own, then it's almost certainly available online and DJ could have found it and linked to it without the slightest difficulty. He decided not to, which has me scratching my head. Personally, I think the record shows quite the opposite: PZ seems perfectly comfortable with any approach that doesn't tell others how to be atheists.

Is DJ getting his impressions about PZ from the likes of Chris Mooney?

Your comparison of DJ with wdunlap seems quite right. I'd had the same thought. It seems depressing. DJ has been in charge for a while now and he hasn't exactly stamped his authority on the JREF, as far as I can tell. Phil didn't do that either. I don't understand why. I used to look forward to the Swift update every Friday. These days there's not much to look forward to.
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written by wdunlap, July 21, 2010
Reply to Iatsot, skeptic Ginger, and others.
I keep hearing that there is no evidence for a creator and disagreement when I state that science can only determine material things and that science is not equipped to determine the existence or nonexistence of a creator. So, let me ask you this. If there is a creator in spirit form, how would science be able to determine this and what would be the evidence that would show that a creator was responsible for the first cause?
There is the argument that various beliefs in gods have been shown with evidence to not exist. I agree, but we are talking about people’s attempts to put a face on their belief that a god or gods exist. We have scientific evidence that evolution is a fact, but do we have a way of knowing that the laws of evolution were not set up by a creator?
You ask for evidence that a god exists, but how can you provide that evidence if a god does exist, but chooses not to make itself known? Since you can’t, you can only look at the situation and use reasoning why or why not a god is necessary. You have chosen the latter and I the former for reasons I have already given. You cannot show evidence what started off the big bang, if not a creator, and I cannot show evidence that it was a creator. So, it appears we are at an impasse.
OK, IATSOT, at least you have admitted to the possibility of a creator, though you think it’s slim. That’s OK because that is all I have been trying to get you and others to admit. BTW, though it is only an opinion on my behalf, I do feel that I have given viable reasons for my opinion that a creator was necessary in spite of the fact that I cannot provide the evidence you and Ginger so want me to.
Iatsot, you said “Because we already know that things can happen with no cause, despite your science class. This is something we *can* detect. It's something we can explain. It has nothing to do with not being able to find a creator, it has to with one explanation being *vastly* more likely than the other.”
Like what for instance? According to inertia, something will stay at rest until a cause gives it reason to move. You keep hitting me over the head with my science class, but I read a lot and am not locked up with what I learned then. For instance, science only knew that the cell had a couple of things like a nucleus, now they know that the cell is a complete factory with numerous safeguards and billions of things that have to be just so. Hmmm, couldn’t that indicate some intelligence behind the development of these cells?
“So you didn't even read the full article?”
No, I just thought the whole article was on what Aquinas said and felt that the summation was all that was important. I went back and looked at it and found the following:
“He gives an example— "gas molecules may bounce against the walls of a container without requiring anything or anyone to get them moving."[25] According to Kaku, these molecules could move forever, without beginning or end. So, there is no need for a First Mover to explain the origins of motion.”
The problem with that is that when all matter was compressed, there most likely was no gas molecules and even if there were there would be no room for them to bounce around or to contribute to the big bang. Also, the gas molecules this physicist is talking about were probably moving about due to being excited by heat. Bet at absolute zero, they wouldn’t be moving about.
I also saw something about string theory, but when I clicked on it, I really didn’t see anything related to first cause
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written by wdunlap, July 21, 2010
Reply to IATSOP and others,
“As Skeptic Ginger has pointed out, the same laws of physics don't apply in a very young universe. “
Funny, this is the same argument that Creationists and IDers use. This is just speculation. We really cannot know this.
“I understand that you personally feel it's a possibility, but that's not very helpful. It's not an argument, it's an opinion. I can't get excited about anyone's opinion, including my own. If we're to be rational, we have to go where the evidence takes us and the evidence does not point at a creator. It points against a creator, since such a thing would be so much less likely than some alternatives.”
Funny, you state “I can't get excited about anyone's opinion, including my own.” Yet you then state “It points against a creator, since such a thing would be so much less likely than some alternatives.”
To me that is simply your opinion.
“I have shown that your assumptions are not valid. Your assertion that nothing can happen without cause is just that: an assertion. It is *incorrect*.’
I disagree. You have not shown my assumptions to be invalid. You keep saying that I have no evidence. True, because you cannot show evidence of a creator, but you can reason why one could be necessary. I have read one statement that gasses in a container are moving without a cause. I don’t agree.
“There is no reason to suppose that if a first cause *does* turn out to be necessary then an intelligence must be responsible. Again, that is just an assertion without evidence and an invalid logical conclusion.”
There is also no reason to state that it necessarily came about by no cause at all. That is also an assertion without evidence. BTW, I am not asserting this as a given only a possibility. I realize where you are coming from and understand your refusal to accept a supernatural being, but that doesn’t necessarily make you right. Science can speculate how it came about by chance without a cause, but there really isn’t any way to determine if that is really so because science cannot show evidence.
“you ignored the point I was actually making, which was that you're saying that since we can't prove a god doesn't exist, then there's a good reason to believe it does.”
That not really what I was saying. I first gave reasoning why a creator might be necessary. I was not saying that since we cannot prove a god doesn’t exist, then there’s a good reason to believe it does. I did say that science can neither prove or disprove a god. I believe we are actually talking two separate arguments. 1. First of all, I stated reasons I felt a creator was necessary. 2. I stated that science cannot give evidence for or against the possibility of this creator.
“No, I've said that "making it up" is to propose an idea when there is absolutely no good reason to do so.”
I already gave you good reason. I can’t help it if you refuse to accept it.
“WHOAH, back up there! So The invisible pink unicorn isn't imaginary? The Flying Spaghetti Monster and Russell's teapot exist, because they are a possibility? Is that really what you mean?”
I fail to see your point here. This is the classical nonsense atheists spout when they cannot come up with a viable argument against the possibility of a creator.
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written by wdunlap, July 21, 2010
Response to Iatsop and Ginger,
“By this stage, this is just a plain lie. You know perfectly well that I've stated repeatedly that I accept the possibility of a creator, but evidence leads me to the conclusion that the probability of a creator is too small to make the idea worth taking seriously. As I've also repeatedly said, if there were some evidence, I'd change my mind.”
Not a lie at all. Up to now, I have been trying patiently to get you to at least admit that a creator is a possibility. This is the first indications from you that you admit that it could be possible.
“It's not a question of whether I accept your logic as valid. It's not a matter of opinion. I've shown why it's wrong and you haven't shown why it's right or why my counter-arguments are wrong.”
You haven’t shown that my logic is wrong. You simply have hung your hat on the statement that I have no evidence which is frustrating since I admit to no evidence, only speculation based on the situation. That doesn’t make me wrong.
“This is the overstatement I'm referring to. If you change one of the parameters, then the universe breaks. But we don't know what happens if we change several of the parameters at once. We don't know whether there are lots of combinations of parameters that could lead to a life-supporting universe. We just know that if you twiddle one of the knobs in our universe, we'd break it.”
If only one constant being out of sync will not allow life, would you please explain your logic how more than one being out of sync would then allow life? Let’s see. The gravitational constant is too strong, therefore, the universe collapses shortly after the big bang. Result, no life. OK, the strong nuclear force is too strong, therefore the atoms are held too tight and compounds cannot form. Result, no life. OK, please explain how one of these two being out of sync will not allow life, but two of them at the same time, which is a double whammy against life, will actually promote life.
“Isn't that just because you refuse to accept that something could happen without a cause? Isn't that just what you're (falsely) accusing me and others of wrt a creator? Can't *you* accept the possibility that there might be an effect without a cause? If you can, what's stopping you looking it up?”
Unlike you, I am willing to entertain other possibilities, whether it be quantum mechanics or string theory, though I admit that these are rather extraordinary theories. I still feel that it is very possible that we need a cause, so I am throwing that out as a possibility. I could ask you the same thing, “Can’t you accept the possibility that there had to be a first cause and that a creator might be necessary.” However, I believe you have come around and admitted that, in spite of the fact that you think it is unlikely, a creator might be a possibility.
“Don't flatter yourself. I have always taken that position.”
If you have taken this position, you have not made it clear until now.
“We are *free* to speculate, but we are also free to do lots of other, more useful things, such as look for evidence.”
That is well and good, but I really doubt that we are ever going to be able to come up with that evidence.
OK, I need to excuse myself because I need to spend some quality time with my pet unicorn.
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written by wdunlap, July 21, 2010
". After investigating hundreds of god myths and determining each god is a mythical entity, after not finding any god beliefs which are not explained as human inventions, and after finding no evidence of any real gods, we can draw a reasonable scientific conclusion, gods are mythical beings."

Science has only determined that the various gods that were worshipped were made up or invented. I have no problem with that. We agree here. Where I have a problem is when you extrapolate this as evidence that a creator of first cause does not exist. You only have evidence that the the various gods which are worshipped are invented. You have not disproved the existence of a creator. Though you may be able to use the scientific process that these gods people have worshipped are invented, you cannot use the scientific process to determine whether a supernatural being exists or does not exist since it is in spirit form and science is only able to examine material things.
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Evidence
written by DataJack, July 22, 2010
wdunlap -
You cannot just say that science cannot examine your god because it is "a spirit form." Just as there is no evidence for your god, there is no evidence for "spirit forms". It appears as if "spirit form" is an attribute you give to an entity (god) that means only this: this entity is immune to scientific inquiry.

That is wrong. You cannot postulate an answer for a question that by definition cannot be verified. That is special pleading.

You have entirely made up everything about your god:
- Cannot be tested (spirit form)
- Violates your own reasoning (everything needs a cause - except god)
- Has capabilities to do whatever you cannot explain (is the first cause of everything else)

This is the very definition of superstition. You don't (yet) know the answer, so you make one up. Your god is no different then Thor or Apollo for their times. They too could not be tested by those who postulated they exist.

It is ok to say "We don't yet know, so let's keep looking". It is not ok to say "We don't yet know, so let's assume it is something that by definition cannot be proven or disproven". That is sloppy thinking.
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written by latsot, July 22, 2010
wdunlap:
BTW, though it is only an opinion on my behalf, I do feel that I have given viable reasons for my opinion that a creator was necessary in spite of the fact that I cannot provide the evidence you and Ginger so want me to.


But you said it was a logical necessity! Which is it?

Like what for instance?


I think I made this clear in my last post. Google, friend, google. The truth happens to be out there.

The problem with that is[….]


You have very, very missed the point. This is an argument against causality being as simple as you suppose. You made a petulant demand: “Like what for instance?” Like *that* for instance. The wikipedia article shows that you are wrong about causality. It doesn’t say anything directly about the origins of the universe, but it demolishes your insistence that everything must have a cause. If you remember, that is one of your assumptions. If your assumptions are wrong, then you can’t insist that your conclusion is right.

And what about all the other the counter-arguments, which you conveniently ignored?
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written by latsot, July 22, 2010
Funny, this is the same argument that Creationists and IDers use. This is just speculation. We really cannot know this.


Yeah, we really can. We know quite a bit about what happens with universes when we squish them up. There’s lots of theory about it. Supported by evidence. We can say things like “if a squished universe worked like this, then we’d expect to see X in a non-squished universe.” Within the framework of a hypothesis, this can constitute evidence.

To me that is simply your opinion.


You really don’t see the irony in saying “to me that is simply your opinion”, do you?

Evidence isn’t a random, floating about thing that can be co-opted to support any random assertion. It’s something that occurs in the confines of a hypothesis. It either supports a hypothesis or it doesn’t. There’s no room for opinion. And what I was talking about was evidence for a particular hypothesis. Not opinion.

Also, it’s not irony anyway.

I disagree. You have not shown my assumptions to be invalid. You keep saying that I have no evidence. True, because you cannot show evidence of a creator, but you can reason why one could be necessary. I have read one statement that gasses in a container are moving without a cause. I don’t agree.


And you finally reveal your agenda. You’ve cherry picked this one tiny part of a Wikipedia article and ignored the rest. Your argument against it is wrong for reasons I’ve already explained.

There is also no reason to state that it necessarily came about by no cause at all. That is also an assertion without evidence.


Agreed, and it is one I’m not making and have never made. Although there are many reasons to suspect that a first cause is not necessarily necessary, as I’ve argued already. And which - in keeping with your MO - you've ignored.

I realize where you are coming from and understand your refusal to accept a supernatural being, but that doesn’t necessarily make you right.


I don’t, as I’ve repeatedly said and you’ve even agreed, refuse to accept the possibility of a supernatural being. I’ve said that there’s no reason to believe that there is such a thing and you’ve yet to convincingly argue otherwise. You seem pathologically unable to utter a single sentence without a strawman.

Science can speculate how it came about by chance without a cause, but there really isn’t any way to determine if that is really so because science cannot show evidence.


Um…. You might want to read what you wrote. That doesn’t make even the slightest bit of sense.

I was not saying that since we cannot prove a god doesn’t exist, then there’s a good reason to believe it does.


But that is *exactly* what you were saying. You said it many, many times.
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written by latsot, July 22, 2010
Not a lie at all. Up to now, I have been trying patiently to get you to at least admit that a creator is a possibility. This is the first indications from you that you admit that it could be possible.


No it isn't. This is another lie. There are several comments by me on this thread that prove otherwise.

You haven’t shown that my logic is wrong. You simply have hung your hat on the statement that I have no evidence which is frustrating since I admit to no evidence, only speculation based on the situation. That doesn’t make me wrong.


Another lie. Everyone on Earth can look at this thread and see that I've done a lot more than say you have no evidence. I've showed why your logic is wrong and pointed to sources (which you have ignored) which show that it's wrong and show why your assumptions are wrong.


If only one constant being out of sync will not allow life, would you please explain your logic how more than one being out of sync would then allow life?


I suggested you google this. I still suggest it. There is lots of evidence to suggest that there are whole swathes of parameter values that would allow life. You really do only have to look it up instead of insisting that there's no evidence then demanding that I provide it. Google it. Really, that is all you have to do. The further we go in this conversation, the more you reveal that you're not willing to do even that and the more you reveal yourself as a lying creationist.


Unlike you, I am willing to entertain other possibilities


Here we go again. You've admitted that I am willing to entertain the idea of a creator....and now you're saying I'm not. And then in the next paragraph you say that I do...Which is it?


If you have taken this position, you have not made it clear until now.


And now you're back to claiming that I didn't entertain the possibility. Seriously, which *is* it?

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written by wdunlap, July 22, 2010
Response to IATSOT,

"You have entirely made up everything about your god:
- Cannot be tested (spirit form)
- Violates your own reasoning (everything needs a cause - except god)
- Has capabilities to do whatever you cannot explain (is the first cause of everything else)

This is the very definition of superstition. You don't (yet) know the answer, so you make one up. Your god is no different then Thor or Apollo for their times. They too could not be tested by those who postulated they exist. "

I have never denied that I know what a God or creator would be like. I can only speculate. I say spirit form because it can't be seen. I haven't speculated what this god would be like because that is beyond comprehension.

Webster's gives the following definition of superstition: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
I protest that I am not doing this out of fear of the unkown, however, perhaps ignorance since I admit that I don't know. I have admitted this, but you insist that I should say that and not speculate on whether or not a supernatural being could have been the first cause. No, I have not made up the fact that my god cannot be tested. I have simply stated that science cannot test it and will be the first to admit that.

"It is ok to say "We don't yet know, so let's keep looking". It is not ok to say "We don't yet know, so let's assume it is something that by definition cannot be proven or disproven"."

I agree it is ok to say "we don't yet know the answer yet, but you have already stated that you have come to the conclusion that a god cannot exist because there has not yet been any evidence found and since the gods invented so far have been proven wrong, therefore, a creator must not exist. You then go so far as to call me a liar when you take me to task on this and a Creationist. It goes without saying that this kind of name calling is unproductive. I have seen anything from you so far that states that you admit that a creator could exist. Maybe you said it before I came on the board, but from what have seen, I haven't said it me until now. And to say that you told me to do a Google, is disingenuous in that you are essentially saying that you are right and that I need to Google to see that I am wrong. The problem with Googling is that it is not always easy to know whether or not the info you find is authentic. Much of what you get is athiests like yourself arguing against the existence of a god. Heck, even Wikipedia appears to allow anyone to put their own definition there. This guy is a physicist who argues that there are "prints of God" on the universe. http://audio.simpletoremember....g_Bang.mp3

"It either supports a hypothesis or it doesn’t. There’s no room for opinion."

When you cannot show evidence one way or another, then there is nothing left but to say I don't know or I don't know, but perhaps, based on speculation, it could have occurred as follows based on the following reason.

"And you finally reveal your agenda. You’ve cherry picked this one tiny part of a Wikipedia article and ignored the rest."

My only agenda is to present my alternative view. I didn't chery pick anything, I took the first thing and I attempted to show that it was wrong thinking. The only other thing I saw was a mention of string theory, which really didn't go into enough detail, which is a problem considering how difficult string theory is to understand.

"Um…. You might want to read what you wrote. That doesn’t make even the slightest bit of sense."

It does make sense. Let me say it another way then. Science can only speculate how the universe came about by some sort of natural way rather by a creator, but science cannot show evidence of this.

You keep saying that I am presenting a strawman, but there is no denying that you are stating that a god is a myth since there is no evidence.
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written by wdunlap, July 22, 2010
IATSOT,
I appologize for not editing what I just posted to you.

It should have read as follows:

I agree it is ok to say "we don't yet know the answer yet, but I have already stated that you have come to the conclusion that a god cannot exist because there has not yet been any evidence found and since the gods invented so far have been proven wrong, therefore, a creator must not exist. You then go so far as to call me a liar when I take you to task on this and a Creationist. It goes without saying that this kind of name calling is unproductive. I have not seen anything from you so far that states that you admit that a creator could exist. Maybe you said it before I came on the board, but from what I have seen, I haven't said it me until now. And to say that you told me to do a Google, is disingenuous in that you are essentially saying that you are right and that I need to Google to see that I am wrong. The problem with Googling is that it is not always easy to know whether or not the info you find is authentic. Much of what you get is athiests like yourself arguing against the existence of a god. Heck, even Wikipedia appears to allow anyone to put their own definition there. This guy is a physicist who argues that there are "prints of God" on the universe.

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Round and round the mulberry bush
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 22, 2010
wdunlap, July 21, 2010
If there is a creator in spirit form, how would science be able to determine this and what would be the evidence that would show that a creator was responsible for the first cause?
...do we have a way of knowing that the laws of evolution were not set up by a creator?

Both are examples of starting with a conclusion. That's failed as a mechanism of investigating the Universe. Following the evidence to the conclusion has been very successful.

if a god does exist, but chooses not to make itself known?

This is the god you should, by your definition, have no awareness of. Yet you suggest awareness.

I do feel that I have given viable reasons for my opinion that a creator was necessary

The only 'reason' you've given is your belief a god is needed. That is not a reason, that is a belief.
And if we were to accept your "reason" at face value, it leaves you with the paradox you must then apply the same reason to the god. It's turtles all the way down from there.

couldn’t that indicate some intelligence behind the development of these cells?

No. It doesn't. Intelligent Design hypotheses have all failed. Rehashing why they failed can be found with not too much effort.

Re laws of physics breaking down, This is just speculation. We really cannot know this.

No, that is what the mathematical calculations show.


"points against a creator" To me that is simply your opinion.

But it is the evidence that points against, not the opinion that points against.

You don't seem to understand the difference. This statement reflects that:
you cannot show evidence of a creator, but you can reason why one could be necessary.

Reason would need to be based on evidence. Even pure logic requires some real thing to apply the logic to.


There is also no reason to state that it necessarily came about by no cause at all. That is also an assertion without evidence.

Again, applying the god of the gaps to "we don't know" has been shown to be wrong time and time again.


I am not asserting this as a given only a possibility.

You keep saying this but your belief a god does exist is clear from your other statements
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The farmer chased the weasel
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 22, 2010
1. First of all, I stated reasons I felt a creator was necessary. 2. I stated that science cannot give evidence for or against the possibility of this creator.
...I already gave you good reason. I can’t help it if you refuse to accept it.
...I fail to see your point here. This is the classical nonsense atheists spout when they cannot come up with a viable argument against the possibility of a creator.
I'm not surprised you can't see latsot's point. You don't understand why your god hypothesis which you readily admit is not based on any evidence whatsoever is not a valid hypothesis. And when you fail to convince people you fall back again to the rationale it must be atheists just refuse to believe. You can't seem to say the reason might be there is no convincing reason.


at least admit that a creator is a possibility

Have you really admitted it's possible there isn't one?


You haven’t shown that my logic is wrong. You simply have hung your hat on the statement that I have no evidence which is frustrating since I admit to no evidence, only speculation based on the situation. That doesn’t make me wrong.

Just like gap gods have been eliminated one after another, evidence based conclusions have proven successful. Non-evidence based conclusions have proved unsuccessful time and time again.


If only one constant being out of sync will not allow life, would you please explain your logic how more than one being out of sync would then allow life?

Did you miss the link I posted earlier discussing the wide range of errors that can occur and 'life' still works while if you take a single transistor out of a intelligently designed transistor radio, it does not work? You are still arguing that one needs a god because you simply believe it to be so.


Where I have a problem is when you extrapolate this as evidence that a creator of first cause does not exist. You only have evidence that the the various gods which are worshipped are invented. You have not disproved the existence of a creator. Though you may be able to use the scientific process that these gods people have worshipped are invented, you cannot use the scientific process to determine whether a supernatural being exists or does not exist since it is in spirit form and science is only able to examine material things.

You've repeated your position but you have yet to address the actual argument.
How many human babies do you need to see to know a human baby is going to grow up to be a human adult and not an adult dog or cat?
If it walks like a myth and talks like a myth, it's a myth.

If you want to start with the conclusion and try to fit the evidence to your conclusion, we know that method has been unsuccessful. Start with the evidence, and we find the method to be very successful. We have a human race. We have a long history of humans making up god myths. There is no evidence of gods ever interacting with said humans that then resulted in any god beliefs, you said so yourself. Why then, given this evidence, should we expect any gods to be anything other than myths? That is the thing you are not addressing about my argument.
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Just a suggestion, wdunlap:
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 22, 2010
If you'd use the quote command, wdunlap, it would make following your posts an awful lot easier. Do you see the thing on the menu bar that looks like the balloon one puts words in over a comic strip? If you highlight a passage and hit that quote icon, it will type the code in for you. If you don't see the menu bar you can make something appear in a quote indented paragraph by typing
and ending the quote with the same command including the / before the word, "quote" in the brackets. Maybe in your next exchange?
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 22, 2010
Darn, I forgot one only needs the first [ q u o t e ] command. So in my post above I meant "[ q u o t e ]" to show and instead it enacted the command.

So to get an indented paragraph, use the menu bar quote command or type the following without the spaces:
[ q u o t e ] the quote [ / q u o t e ]
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increasingly wearisome
written by latsot, July 23, 2010
wdunlap:

Response to IATSOT,


First, it's Latsot, with an L. There have been some strange variations of my name on this thread, but I understand how the L might look like an I. Second, you attribute a quote to me that actually came from DataJack. I'm sure DataJack will answer that point, I'm not going to.

but you have already stated that you have come to the conclusion that a god cannot exist because there has not yet been any evidence found and since the gods invented so far have been proven wrong, therefore, a creator must not exist.


I have done no such thing. Just read what you've accused me of and then read back over my posts here. You've even agreed that I've said no such thing, but you flip back and forth between arguing that I refuse to accept the possibility of a god and accepting that I do, under the caveats I have explained several times. This is oddly unstable behaviour.

You then go so far as to call me a liar when you take me to task on this and a Creationist.


I call you a liar because that is undoubedly what you are. You have misrepresented my views and those of various others here. How does that constitute honest behaviour? You are a creationist in that you believe the universe was created, so I'm not sure what you have to complain about that particular charge.

It goes without saying that this kind of name calling is unproductive.


It's no less productive than repeatedly ignoring counter-arguments and then playing the martyr card.

I have seen anything from you so far that states that you admit that a creator could exist.


I assume you mean to say that you have NOT seen any such thing. Then I'm afraid you are a liar or so mistaken as to be a danger to yourself because you have already acknowledged that I did say this.

And to say that you told me to do a Google, is disingenuous in that you are essentially saying that you are right and that I need to Google to see that I am wrong.


No, I'm saying that you seem only to want to see sources that agree with you, as evidenced by your selective refusal to read any criticisms by me other others of your argument or counter-arguments in wikipedia articles which you selectively cite in favour of your views.

The problem with Googling is that it is not always easy to know whether or not the info you find is authentic.


This is neither a problem, nor restricted to google. What I'm suggesting is that you LOOK STUFF UP and then APPLY CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS. You refuse to do either. Critical thinking will help you understand how to appraise sources. I've suggested a couple of sources which contain counter-arguments to some of the things you've said.....and you've said you somehow didn't even manage to read those parts of the article. You don't have a problem accepting the parts of the wikipedia article that agree with what you said, but the bits that disagree might not be authentic? Please.

Much of what you get is athiests like yourself arguing against the existence of a god. Heck, even Wikipedia appears to allow anyone to put their own definition there.


That...is kind of the point... I'm astonished that you don't understand that.

This guy is a physicist who argues that there are "prints of God" on the universe.


OK, so now you are saying that you DO know how to apply critical thought to web resources?
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written by latsot, July 23, 2010
wdulap:
When you cannot show evidence one way or another, then there is nothing left but to say I don't know or I don't know, but perhaps, based on speculation, it could have occurred as follows based on the following reason.


That isn't true because as I've said many times and you've completely ignored, some things are more likely than others and because - as I've also said - it gives you spurious license to speculate any damn thing. So by your logic, your assertion that there must be some kind of intelligence that started the universe is exactly as likely as my assertion that there must have been some kind of shade of purple that started the universe. How is this kind of banal sophistry helpful? And when it comes to name-calling, you've done worse than me by putting all kinds of words into my mouth, then denying you did, then admitting you did, then denying it....

My only agenda is to present my alternative view. I didn't chery pick anything, I took the first thing and I attempted to show that it was wrong thinking. The only other thing I saw was a mention of string theory, which really didn't go into enough detail, which is a problem considering how difficult string theory is to understand.


The only other thing you saw? Why didn't you read the rest of the article? The counter-arguments are right there. This is the *very definition* of cherry picking.

It does make sense. Let me say it another way then. Science can only speculate how the universe came about by some sort of natural way rather by a creator, but science cannot show evidence of this.


So you assert. I assert that science cannot show evidence of the existence of super-purple, a purple more purply than any other purple. The one true purple that will defeat all other purples. My assertion makes exactly as much sense as does yours.

You keep saying that I am presenting a strawman, but there is no denying that you are stating that a god is a myth since there is no evidence.


I can deny it without the slightest effort because that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying that there is no good reason to believe in god because there is no evidence. That's it.
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written by latsot, July 23, 2010
wdunlap:
I have not seen anything from you so far that states that you admit that a creator could exist.


Then why did you write this?

OK, IATSOT, at least you have admitted to the possibility of a creator, though you think it’s slim.


You're a liar, sunshine.
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written by latsot, July 23, 2010
Ooh, ooh, another one:

wdunlap said:
This is the first indications from you that you admit that it could be possible.


It's quite amazing how many times you admit that I've said a creator might be possible considering that you claim to have never witnessed me saying that it is. *cough*liar*cough*
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written by latsot, July 23, 2010
latsot:


wdulap


By the way, that was a genuine typo, various ironies aside.
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written by wdunlap, July 23, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,I put your quotes in parenthsis since the quote thing doesn't seem to be working. Friendly Atheist bracket worked much better.

(Both are examples of starting with a conclusion. That's failed as a mechanism of investigating the Universe. Following the evidence to the conclusion has been very successful.)


You are not answering the question. You and Latsot have stated that I have not provided evidence that a creator exists. I am asking how we could show evidence if a creator does exist if it does not choose to make itself known. My point is that, even if a creator exists there can be no evidence unless this creator wishes to make itself known. So, the statement that no evidence exists does not necessarily prove a supernatural being does not exist.

(The only 'reason' you've given is your belief a god is needed. That is not a reason, that is a belief.)

The reason I gave is that I believe a first cause is required and that the 4 constants all occuring in a narrow parameter may require a creator. I.E, I am not basing it on belief.

(This is the god you should, by your definition, have no awareness of. Yet you suggest awareness.)

I already explained that I have no awareness whether a creator actually exist, but that doesn't stop me from being aware that the creator has not made itself known. But maybe I am wrong because there are people who claim to have made contact. (sorry, but i couldn't resist saying that.

"This is the god you should, by your definition, have no awareness of. Yet you suggest awareness."

Yes, and I admit that does weaken my argument, but can we be sure that a first cause creator didn't start it all plus set up all the "natural laws, and, if so, how would science be able to see the evidence?

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written by latsot, July 24, 2010
wdunlap:

I'm confused about what you are trying to achieve. Your strange inability to sense anything that doesn't support your personal views notwithstanding, I don't think there's anyone here who denies that there's a possibility that the universe was created by some sort of being.

I might be wrong: if any such person is reading this who flat out denies that a creator could even be a possibility, speak up.

But to take that possibility seriously is to deny lots of things we know and to defy logic, both for reasons that have been carefully and repeatedly explained to you.

I am asking how we could show evidence if a creator does exist if it does not choose to make itself known. My point is that, even if a creator exists there can be no evidence unless this creator wishes to make itself known. So, the statement that no evidence exists does not necessarily prove a supernatural being does not exist.


Nobody has denied any of this. It just doesn't get us anywhere, which is the point Skeptic Ginger has been trying to hammer into your skull. There's no need for anyone to prove a creator doesn't exist in order to conclude that it's so blitheringly unlikely as to make it not worth bothering about. That's all anyone else here is trying to say, as far as I can see.

The reason I gave is that I believe a first cause is required and that the 4 constants all occuring in a narrow parameter may require a creator. I.E, I am not basing it on belief.


And yet various people have attacked both your logic and your assumptions and you haven't answered any of these complaints. If you can't defend either your logic or your assumptions, then I think all you have left is belief. And lies, of course, which are pretty much the same thing. You've misrepresented various people's positions several times and you've claimed (untruthfully) that nobody has made a valid objection to your shaky, idiotic claims.

Let's not be boring and thrash this pointless doll about again, when it clearly wants to die. wdunlap, if you have anything new to say, I'd be delighted to discuss it, but if you're going to drag up the same dreary argument yet again, let's forget it. You've got atheists to admit that there's a vanishingly small possibility - providing we abandon pretty much everything we know - that there's a creator. Apparently you consider that some kind of win so if I were you I'd retire while I was behind.
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Science does not rule out any possibility, ever, but...
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 24, 2010
Because the "you can't disprove god" argument is constantly used to wrongly support the conclusion, "therefore a god does exist", I avoid repeating it.

One of the mistakes we often make in communicating science is not paying enough attention to the science of communication. I saw this in evolution theory debates over and over that went something like this:

Intelligent Design (ID) believer: Science refuses to consider any evidence that supports the conclusion ID is valid.
Scientist: Science doesn't look for designers.
ID believer: See, that confirms what I said.

OK, clearly it did not confirm what the scientist said, so what went wrong? Most science people would say the reason was the IDer was not interested in the facts. Using communication science, however, we can analyze what went wrong and correct it. While the IDer may not change from ID to evolution theory, at least the scientist can address the straw man that "science refuses to consider evidence". And I happen to think that matters.

So what really went wrong? The IDer changed the debate question from one of scientific evidence to one of fairness in considering all evidence. The scientist did not recognize the shifted debate and, in addition, answered with a concept few lay people even understand. And if one doesn't understand the concept of not testing for a designer, one is going to conclude something else from the statement. One would likely conclude the straw man that science excluded some evidence arbitrarily was correct.

Given that analysis here's a different exchange where the scientist takes the debate question back:

ID believer: Science refuses to consider any evidence that supports the conclusion ID is valid.
Scientist: Science considers all evidence and possibilities. The only evidence presented to date that may have supported ID was the claim one could find elements in living organisms that there were no precursor element for, (irreducible complexity). That hypothesis was proved wrong by genetic science research. The genetic pathway to get an eye and a bacterial flagella have been found.
ID believer: [has no answer]

Granted, one is still left with a person who will likely hold his same belief. But there are two benefits. One, the IDer will have fewer converts believing the straw man, leaving no arguments left for intelligent design. And two, you have presented evidence ID is wrong by presenting evidence irreducible complexity is a failed hypothesis.

People who do eventually change their beliefs may only do so after they get away from the debate and are not faced with defending their integrity (intelligence). So I never expect to convince the person I am debating. But I do hope to convince other people hearing/reading the debate. And I know that if I do influence the beliefs of the person I am debating, it may happen later. Continuing to defend one's beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence is a natural human trait. So we should also consider that fact in our communication efforts.


So how does this apply to the "you can't disprove god" problem in science?

Just as it is technically correct that science doesn't seek supernatural explanations, it is technically correct one cannot test for any and every possible god so one cannot disprove gods exist. But just as people (including some science people) misunderstand that not seeking supernatural explanations is not the same as not evaluating all evidence, many people misunderstand the, "you can't disprove god", and can't help then believing it supports their belief or a belief, there is a god.

Because the 'can't disprove god' is misused to support god beliefs, I communicate the information in a different way. Latsop uses the statement, god is possible but so unlikely as to not need further effort to consider. I prefer to point out, correctly, that we do draw conclusions about many things based on overwhelming evidence. We know a human baby will not grow up to be an adult dog without waiting for each and every human baby to grow up. Science draws such conclusions all the time. God myths explain god beliefs, period.

As for the 'can't prove a negative' or as is being argued currently in one of the forum threads, it's false logic to say "because one A is a myth, all As are a myth", this is a scientific process issue, not a 'gods exist' issue. We don't apply the same scientific process principle to go around saying technically we are all agnostic about human babies possibly growing up to be adult dogs. So why is there a need to add the agnostic caveat to god myths?
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 24, 2010
Post being reviewed, yet again....sigh.
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written by wdunlap, July 27, 2010
Reply to Skeptic Ginger,
(Intelligent Design (ID) believer: Science refuses to consider any evidence that supports the conclusion ID is valid.
Scientist: Science doesn't look for designers.
ID believer: See, that confirms what I said.)

This the point I have been trying to make. When scientist says science doesn't look for designers, the reason for that is that science cannot determine evidence for a designer. Science can only look for evidence of how something occurred. Science cannot determine whether or not natural laws came about with or without the hands of a creator.

( Continuing to defend one's beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence is a natural human trait. So we should also consider that fact in our communication efforts.)

So far, I haven't seen any real contradictory evidence for a creator as the first cause. Still, let me make it clear that I do feel your argument is valid too, just that it doesn't necessarily nullify mine.

(Because the 'can't disprove god' is misused to support god beliefs)

Yes, in many cases it is, but when you closely look at possibilities like the need for a first cause or a need to set parameters forces of nature withing a very narrow range, a creator cannot be written off.

"As for the 'can't prove a negative' or as is being argued currently in one of the forum threads, it's false logic to say "because one A is a myth, all As are a myth", this is a scientific process issue, not a 'gods exist' issue. We don't apply the same scientific process principle to go around saying technically we are all agnostic about human babies possibly growing up to be adult dogs. So why is there a need to add the agnostic caveat to god myths?"

I disagree that this is strictly a scientific process issue. Like I said before, if a creator was involved, and I gave reasons why it may be so, science is not designed to make this determination. Science can only look at the material and try to determine how it came about. If a creator is involved, science cannot determine this, and like you said, science doesn't even bother to look for the supernatural because they cannot. As far as Agnostics go, they are not saying that they don't know if a mythological god exists or not. On the contrary, they have determined religion to be man-made, BUT, the Agnostic is not ruling out the existence of a creator because they do not know. That is essentially where I stand, but with leanings towards a creator. After this discussion, though, I may reconsider and go back to sitting dead center on the fence.
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written by wdunlap, July 27, 2010
Ginger,
The reason your posts keep getting reviewed is because I've convinced the administrator that I am right and you are wrong. Hee, hee. Actually, mine have been reviewed from time to time too. Also, when I wrote too much for a single post and had to send in 3 parts, I got a message for the last one stating that I have sent too many messages and there is concern that I am spamming. I had to wait a while before i could send out my last message. Other than that, it seems to work fairly well. Thank you administrator.
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Explanation of "moderated posts"
written by JeffWagg, July 28, 2010
The comment system on randi.org is set to "unmoderated" status. That means that you can post what you'd like, and it will be appear immediately. However... in some cases, long posts or posts with a lot of links WILL trigger the moderation system even though it's off and require me to click on a link that is e-mailed to me. As I'm not monitoring my e-mail 24/7, it can take some time.

We have a very open policy here and only remove comments that are obvious spam.
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Explanation of "moderated posts"
written by latsot, July 30, 2010
Hi Jeff,

This is more than fair and a welcome policy. I'm sure we all appreciate it. I do. And thanks for clarifying it (I never doubted it).

However, it would be less confusing if when our posts went into moderation, we got a message to say so. Or perhaps just a message to say - on posting - that moderation might be required.

Several people have been confused by this and there's been the odd multiple post because people used to seeing their posts appear immediately suddenly don't and there's no indication why. When debates are in full flow and we can't be sure whether our post is going to eventually appear, it can be frustrating. Reminding us that our comments might take a while to appear wouldn't hurt.

Another confusing thing is that sometimes those of us subscribed to receive comment updates to a thread by email receive those updates apparently almost immediately.....but they take a long time to appear on the site. Long enough, in fact, for the poster to post again wondering what happened to their post...

This means that either the email updates bypass the moderation system or that it takes a really bizarre amount of time for accepted posts to make it onto the site.

Either way, it's confusing people.
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@latsot
written by JeffWagg, July 30, 2010
It's not a policy, it just seems to be how the software works. Another theory is that when you take a long time to create a post, you your login times out, but your post goes through as a "guest" (which we don't allow), and therefor requires moderation.

At any rate, it's a bug not a feature.

If you'd like to avoid this, I suggest not taking a long time to post, like less than 15 minutes.

I'm going to look into different comment solutions, but I don't want to lose our history of comments, so I'm going to proceed carefully.
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written by latsot, July 30, 2010
The comment system on randi.org is set to "unmoderated" status.


That's what I meant by 'policy'. It's a great one. Some other sites have much worse polices.

I understand that you're fighting the software but does that mean suggestions aren't welcome? If there's anything I can do to help with any software or hosting or admin issues, I'm happy to give what spare time I have.
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Re moderated posts
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 30, 2010
Whatever the issues are, the parameters must be set by someone, be it the software designer or the JREF staff. If just being a long post or taking a long time to compose is the issue, that makes very little sense as a parameter to trigger a moderated post. And I don't recall that was an issue in other SWIFT threads in which I have posted equally long posts in time and length.

It would seem that a single post within a short interval triggers not just that post to be questioned, but every subsequent post in that session be moderated.

Something is different. I've not encountered this problem to this extent in the past.
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If wdunlap is still reading part 1 0f 2
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 31, 2010
written by wdunlap, July 27, 2010
Reply to Skeptic Ginger,
This the point I have been trying to make. When scientist says science doesn't look for designers, the reason for that is that science cannot determine evidence for a designer. Science can only look for evidence of how something occurred. Science cannot determine whether or not natural laws came about with or without the hands of a creator.
And yet I can determine that the Antikythera Mechanism was designed by an intelligent human and is not a natural object. I can compare it to a beaver's dam and determine what the design says about the different designers, recognizing beavers are born with the genetic instructions for specifically building dama while the Antikythera's designer was born with a different set of design skills.

I can determine Behe's hypothesis was false that one could find irreducible complexity within living organisms thus he has not demonstrated there is an additional chapter in evolution theory. There is no reason to think we won't eventually determine the steps in abiogenesis (there has been significant progress in this field) demonstrating life emerged as the result of completely natural processes and there is no evidence a designer was involved. Science can make this determination.

I can show that the genetics of the color of a moth's wings has so much tolerance for error it differs in very distinct ways from a designed transistor radio. I can also demonstrate that evolution of the mechanism for genetic instructions is a random process which is not consistent with a designer.

Unfortunately you demonstrate my point that we, as science promoters, error in using the "science doesn't look for a designer" message. The statement is an attempt to explain a particular aspect of the scientific process to the lay public. That aspect is simply how one designs the test of an hypothesis. And yet here you are demonstrating that the interpretation you deduce from the statement is not the correct interpretation.

IMO many skeptics and scientists also misuse the principle as an excuse to avoid the uncomfortable god question. People often react negatively to having their beliefs challenged. A concept of faith based beliefs is manufactured. 'Untestable claims' takes on a manufactured property which differs from the original meaning of the label. And voila, one need not confront the double standard that one is applying to unsupportable god beliefs that one doesn't apply to other unsupportable beliefs. One need not confront the theist one doesn't want to offend. One need not confront one's own cognitive dissonance of believing in a magical entity if one separates the real Universe from one's imaginary universe.

I am not the first to address the false dichotomy of claiming two sets of rules for understanding the Universe, that of faith based beliefs and science based beliefs. There are indeed faith based beliefs. But there are not two kinds of faith based beliefs with one being spiritual and OK and the other being unsupportable conclusions we have no problem declaring result from erroneous thinking.
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part 2
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 31, 2010
So far, I haven't seen any real contradictory evidence for a creator as the first cause. Still, let me make it clear that I do feel your argument is valid too, just that it doesn't necessarily nullify mine.


You have seen contradictory evidence. I posted it in this exchange. You choose[/] to draw a different conclusion about the evidence. We all do this. I am not claiming my brain does not also have the same mechanism of categorizing evidence as valid and not valid before evaluating it further. For example, personal experiences do not meet my definition of evidence for god. Other's claim such experiences are evidence. I don't deny the experience is evidence. But the interpretation that experience is evidence of god is a conclusion about the experience. The conclusion is not evidence, the experience is the evidence.

The evidence is all the gods people have created throughout history have been determined to be myths. I find that supports the conclusion all gods are mythical/fictional things. You choose to apply a different standard to that evidence than you would apply to the evidence a human baby will not grow up to be an adult dog which you can conclude without proving it can never happen. Have you observed every future baby ever to be born? Can you therefore 'prove' not a single one will grow up to be an adult dog?

You also use the 'can't disprove' wrongly as 'evidence for' just as you describe below:

(Because the 'can't disprove god' is misused to support god beliefs)

Yes, in many cases it is, but when you closely look at possibilities like the need for a first cause or a need to set parameters forces of nature withing a very narrow range, a creator cannot be written off.

You can write a creator off just as you can write off Leprechauns and the idea a human baby is possibly going to grow up to be an adult dog.

After this discussion, though, I may reconsider and go back to sitting dead center on the fence.
smilies/grin.gif
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eratta
written by Skeptic Ginger, July 31, 2010
The italics above are an error and should only have applied to the single word, "choose". I left the 'i' out of the command code. smilies/sad.gif
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written by latsot, July 31, 2010
To gild refined gold,
To paint the lilly,
To throw perfume on the violet,
Is just fucking silly

-- Tim Minchin

wdunlap, that's what you're doing.
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written by wdunlap, July 31, 2010
Hi Ginger,
Yeah, still reading, but personal stuff is getting in the way, so may take a while, but I will definitely try to respond as soon as I can find some time.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, July 31, 2010
No worries. You also need not answer as we are in the phase of rinse and repeat. I'll not take it as a sign of weakness.
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written by latsot, August 01, 2010
ginger said:
Something is different. I've not encountered this problem to this extent in the past.


Yeah. Presumably it's a tickbox in the software. Long posts and lots of links seem like things that ought to be *encouraged* here. If Jeff is the only person moderating posts, then perhaps that's the problem, overworked as he likely is.

Why not enlist a bunch of members to help? There'd be no shortage of volunteers and it could be a good publicity drive.
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written by latsot, August 01, 2010
Yeah, still reading, but personal stuff is getting in the way, so may take a while, but I will definitely try to respond as soon as I can find some time.


I'm not a creationist at all. I'm really really really open minded. What I'll do is I'll go away and seriously read the links you've sent me then respond to them, even though I haven't done anything like this so far. In fact, I've done the exact opposite by repeating arguments, making shit up and refusing to respond to questions. No, really, I will. You can trust me. It's not as though I've completely lied so far or anything.

Prove me wrong, wdunlap.
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written by wdunlap, August 01, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,

Thanks Ginger. I admit we are going around in circles. I must say that you have presented some very excellent arguments. It has been a joy to have this discussion with you. I must add that, though we agree that all religious beliefs in gods has been pretty much disprovened, I must express amusement that that 80% of the worldwide population would disagree with us. Remember that book I said I was reading about, DMT The Spirit Molecule. The author, who did the scientific study on the effects of this psychedelic drug, expected more after death experiences, but he found that the largest experience was leaving the body and ending up in some sort of parallel universe with alien nonmaterial beings. Some were insect like and even had some sort of sex with the drug trippers. The author speculated that these were actually trips to parallel universes. However, he admits that he is skating on thin ice. I agree. I find it hard to believe that these weren't simply hallucinations. Still, there is one question and that is why so many had these experiences, including being probed by these aliens are so similar.
I have begun reading Coyne's book Why Evolution is True. Funny, when ever I read these books on evolution, I get the feeling that something doesn't quite make sense. This is the same feeling I got when I read the Bible. Books on evolution are able to explain how changes occur over long period of time, but as I mentioned, it never explains how we ended up with male and female at the same time and now I just read how we had evolution of eggs plus fertilization. Seems pretty amazing that all by itself reproduction system along with a separate female and male occurred by chance. Sorry, I know I mentioned this earlier, but I just started this book on evolution and as usual I am frustrated. I have found all sorts of solid evidence to show that various religions are man-made, but I have yet to find the evidence I am looking for to definitely rule out intelligent design.
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Part 1
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 01, 2010
I must express amusement that that 80% of the worldwide population would disagree with us.
smilies/cool.gif Fortunately for me, I've never been intimidated by the fact I think differently.

The author speculated that these were actually trips to parallel universes. However, he admits that he is skating on thin ice. I agree. I find it hard to believe that these weren't simply hallucinations. Still, there is one question and that is why so many had these experiences, including being probed by these aliens are so similar.
Out of body experiences can easily be confirmed or refuted experimentally. One only needs to set up an inexpensive random message generator that can only be seen from the ceiling looking down in an ICU or ED and wait for someone to believe they experienced floating above their body in an OOB experience. It's been done, the message has never been correctly reported. I'm all for running the experiment for a much longer period of time, because it is an inexpensive waste of money if it fails, and an earthshaking finding if it succeeds. I don't expect it to succeed but NDEs are at least some evidence to base the speculation on.

NDEs are not, however, a reason to speculate on any possible thing one can imagine. Instead of trips to alternate universes, why not claim one took a trip to Hogwartz? This kind of mindless speculation is a real waste of time. Remind yourself how successful rational speculation is compared to this irrational variety. Imagining a god in a fiery chariot pulled the Sun across the sky obviously sounded good to someone thousands of years ago, but it was unsuccessful baseless speculation. Copernicus and Galileo, OTOH, imagined their universes by piecing together real things they observed. They were successful.

(Part 2 has a link so might be delayed showing up.)
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Part 2
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 01, 2010
Books on evolution are able to explain how changes occur over long period of time, but as I mentioned, it never explains how we ended up with male and female at the same time and now I just read how we had evolution of eggs plus fertilization. Seems pretty amazing that all by itself reproduction system along with a separate female and male occurred by chance.
You've been reading too many unreliable sources on evolution. Once these Creationists think they've had some aha! moment, they pass it around and repeat it ad nauseum. And when science whacks yet another of their moles, they just ignore the evidence and the science and keep on repeating and passing on the same misstated facts. The arguments they've thought up as to why evolution theory must be wrong or must require a god just sound so appealing they have no interest in an honest evaluation of their, "evolution is impossible because [fill in the blank]".

It's hard to find an easy to understand concise source for the current science on the evolution of sexual reproduction amid all the Creationist (including ID promoter) sites masquerading as sources of science. But I did find one. It's 6 pages but only has one or two paragraphs per page and does a good job on the subject.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolut...index.html


Evolution is a fact. The multitude of arguments that evolution is impossible because [fill in the blank] are like arguing the Earth is flat because it is impossible to stand upside-down and people would fall off if the Earth were round. There is nothing wrong with being that poorly informed and that out of date on the science. None of us knows everything about everything. But there is something very wrong with trying to argue the case for ID while being so poorly informed about evolution theory.
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Clarification
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 01, 2010
That last comment refers to the Creationist/ID web sites I just looked at on the subject of evolution of sexual reproduction. I was not referring to you.
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Athiests vs Fundamentalist Christians
written by William, August 02, 2010
Thought this cartoon might be relevant to the conversation at hand:

http://xkcd.com/774/

(After reading the cartoon, hover over the picture and read the alt text behind it.)
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written by latsot, August 02, 2010
I wonder why wdunlop refuses to tslk to me now.
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written by wdunlap, August 02, 2010
I used to think that dying on an operating table and being brought back only to find that the person who died met up with people who died or a loving being of light was proof of life after death, but then I started reading that the going through a tunnel into light could be remembrance of birth. Also, astronouts going through G training had these experiences due to lack of oxygen to the brain. I also heard of them putting random generator on ceiling of operating tables, but no one who has had the OBE has been able to give the words on the random generator. Funny, I'm surprised you didn't jump on the supposedly trips to parallel universes as an indication that they really exist. smilies/smiley.gif

I checked out the PBS site on reproduction. I love PBS. Article explained the possible benefits of sexual vs asexual, but, unfortunately, I was disappointed because author never explained how this could have happened, i.e., how two life forms appearing at the same time, one with male reproduction and one with female reproduction systems. I'm not arguing against evolution. I agree that it is fact, but it drives mad that I cannot find any explanation for my questions. Without that knowledge, I cannot write off intelligent design as a possibility. SIGH!!! So, I am left with "I don't know."
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FOLLOW evidence, don't try to FIT it to what you want it to lead to. Part 1
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 02, 2010
You are looking to confirm the conclusion you want, wdunlap. That biased approach to scientific discovery doesn't work.
Article explained the possible benefits of sexual vs asexual, but, unfortunately, I was disappointed because author never explained how this could have happened, i.e., how two life forms appearing at the same time, one with male reproduction and one with female reproduction systems. I'm not arguing against evolution. I agree that it is fact, but it drives mad that I cannot find any explanation for my questions. Without that knowledge, I cannot write off intelligent design...
All you need is a mechanism for selecting certain genetic code, and a mechanism for the code to arise. As there are with the eye, the liver, the gut, the brain, and most everything else, examples of more primitive versions of sexual reproduction exist today. We can follow "how it happened" by looking at progressively more primitive versions of sexual reproduction.

There's a species of fish which a male has a harem of females. If the male dies or is removed, one of the female fish will literally turn into a male and take its place. Alligators will be male or female based on the temperature the eggs incubate at. These organisms don't have X and Y equivalent genes. They can be male or female simply by exposure to hormones or external temperatures. Natural selection had something to work with before male and female chromosomes began to diverge.

Some fungi and insects reproduce both sexually and asexually. Those would be your 'transitional' species. You can read about them on your own.

As far back in the line of descent as we look, we see primitive forms of exchange of genetic material between organisms. There are at least 4 different mechanisms for microorganisms exchanging genetic code. I'll leave you to investigate the specific mechanisms on your own.

Single celled organisms which reproduce asexually also exchange genetic material with other organisms including exchanging whole genes with other species. It turns out exchange of genetic material between organisms has a benefit in organisms when random mutation is just not fast enough. Take antibiotic resistance. One organism develops resistance gradually through random mutations. (Interestingly some organisms actually turn off genetic repair mechanisms when exposed to a toxin thus speeding up the mutation rate.) Once the gene for antibiotic resistance develops, it starts turning up all over the world in microorganisms that were never exposed to the antibiotic.

The tiny influenza virus shuffles the gene pool deck in the way it reproduces. A virus enters a cell and splits into 9 segments that are copied in pieces. The pieces reassemble and emerge from the infected cell. If two flu viruses infect the same cell at the same time (a common occurrence when you have billions of viruses all circulating around in an infected organism) then their 9 gene segments will recombine with segments coming from either original virus.

So it is to an organism's survival advantage to acquire genetic material from other organisms. Multiple mechanisms for exchanging genetic material can be found in the microbial world, including total gene shuffling between two organisms of the same species just as occurs in sexual reproduction. And we can trace the steps of evolution of sexual preproduction by looking at species still around today.
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Evolution is a random process Part 2
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 02, 2010
Getting back to natural selection, it is advantageous for complex organisms to have 2 whole sets of genes. If either copy of the organism's DNA has a defective gene, the alternate copy can be expressed and the organism functions normally.

While the specifics may still be being debated among the experts, there are conceivable mechanisms for evolution of sexual reproduction to have occurred naturally, without a designer.

Two like organisms with genetic codes that have the same number of genes in the same locations merely need to split their DNA in a normal reproduction event within the vicinity of each other. Instead of the split DNA slowly accumulating paired nucleic acid molecules to rebuild itself, the two halves might randomly attach to each other instead. After all, whole segments of the strands would be natural pairs to the other strand.

After this initial mechanism occurred, and had an advantage, a more efficient mechanism would have evolved creating a more efficient gene duplication process. Thus the egg and sperm evolved into more efficient pairing forms. Looking at the means of fungi reproducing asexually and sexually demonstrates this evolution step.

Of course if we were all designed, you wouldn't want dominant defective genes, yet they occur. Recessive defective genes are more likely to reproduce so there are more of those. And sometimes an organism gets 2 defective recessive genes, again, because organisms are not designed, they are the result of selection pressures acting on random mutations.


Another advantage of constantly mixing up the gene pools of different organisms is the same advantage microorganisms have exchanging genes, it increases variability within the gene pool. A microorganism can rely on a mutation developing when the organism is exposed to a toxin. That's because it is dividing fast enough and that mutation which resists the toxin can quickly repopulate the entire colony of organisms with resistant members.

Larger animals, however, reproduce too slowly. They have to have the mutation already within the population gene pool to have any surviving members. So you get a number of survivors that are resistant to whatever kills off large numbers of the group if you have enough genetic variability within the group. Variability is naturally selected. Random mutations are a lot slower at producing variability than sexual reproduction is. Sexual reproduction would have a natural selection advantage that was greater in more slowly reproducing more complex organisms.

So sexual reproduction has several benefits that will be naturally selected, especially in larger more slowly reproducing multi-celled organisms. And exchange of genetic material goes on outside of sexual reproduction. Natural selection had something to work with. There is no designer needed here.
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Loose end
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 02, 2010
Funny, I'm surprised you didn't jump on the supposedly trips to parallel universes as an indication that they really exist.
The person experiencing the NDE reports what was seen, heard, felt. Nowhere in that NDE is a report of a sign that says, "Parallel Universe thataway." There is no more evidence of parallel universes in NDE reports than there is evidence Hogwartz exits.

There is a difference between evidence for something and totally fictional speculation.

The evidence a person exists in an NDE outside their body is absolutely minuscule, and the evidence people experiencing NDEs are merely dreaming the experience is hugely overwhelming. But as an objective thinker, one would not want to dismiss the NDE experience on the sole basis it was too ludicrous to consider. You dismiss it on the basis, one there is no mechanism for it to occur, and two, because there is a much more plausible explanation for what is occurring.

There is no evidence 'for' a designer. No evidence 'for' a god. No evidence 'for' NDEs having squat to do with parallel universes.

No evidence 'for' differs from minuscule evidence. People experiencing NDEs report seeing things from their OOB observation perspective. It's not much, it is explicable with more likely conclusions. But it is evidence one should not just dismiss as, too incredible to bother considering.

There may be some judgement call here that is hard to exclude completely. For example, orbs and light spots on developed film or videotape is evidence of a spot on the film or an insect or dust out of focus, not evidence of ghosts. Just declaring certain evidence is evidence of [x] does not make it evidence 'for' [x] if there is no real basis for the evidence to actually be [x]. There has to be more than just making up an explanation for something to say it is minuscule but still represents evidence 'for'.

If you can substitute known fiction in the description of the evidence and not have any less likelihood of the known fiction making sense, you probably have a totally made up explanation. Hogwartz or parallel universes? Made up fiction. Ghost orbs or Tinkerbell? Made up fiction. Out of one's body looking down or []? About all you can put in there is "or dreaming".

BTW, before it comes up, 5 of 6 billion people on the planet believing something exists is also not evidence 'for' something. Science is not about 'evidence by majority vote'.
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i suspect that wdunlap is a creationist lair
written by latsot, August 03, 2010
wdunlap:
how two life forms appearing at the same time, one with male reproduction and one with female reproduction systems. I'm not arguing against evolution.


I think wdunlap is revealing his/her ray-comfort-like understanding of evolution. How could a male and a female dog, for example, suddenly evolve at the same time in the same place by pure accident? I suspect that's what is meant by "i.e., how two life forms appearing at the same time, one with male reproduction and one with female reproduction systems"

Wdunlap, if that's not what you mean, please clarify.
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written by wdunlap, August 03, 2010
(You are looking to confirm the conclusion you want, wdunlap.)

Well, after determing that Christianity and other religions were man-made, I felt there was the possibility that God didn't exist. I hoped that I would find answers in evolution to that question, but evolution texts just didn't give convincing evidence for me that it all happened without any god being involved.

Your comment about certain fish changing sex is interesting and worth looking at. I actually had a fish that did that in my aquarium. Also, the fungi and insects reproducing sexually and asexually has posibilies. Thanks. Those could definitely be transitional species. Very interesting. So far, all the evolution books I have read have ignored this area. I'm not 100% convinced, but this definitely opens possibilites.

(Once the gene for antibiotic resistance develops, it starts turning up all over the world in microorganisms that were never exposed to the antibiotic.)

The only way that could happen is that the new mutated organisms and their offspring are carried around the world. This is a great example of evolution and can be seen in a very short period of time since these organisms multiply so rapidly.
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written by wdunlap, August 03, 2010
Sorry, I forgot to mention that my last post was in response to Skeptic Ginger.
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written by wdunlap, August 03, 2010
Coyne in his evolution book states that male testes were originaly developed withing the abdomen of a fish and later migrated outside in land males. How the heck did this come about? From what I can see, the testes need to be outside or the sperm would be damaged by too much heat. It is almost like someone intellectually decided this. BTW, it mentions that an intelligent being wouldn't do it this way because it cause potential for hernias. Still, this is taking for granted that a creator would simply know how to do this instead of not knowing and having to do trial and error.
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written by wdunlap, August 03, 2010
(There is no more evidence of parallel universes in NDE reports than there is evidence Hogwartz exits. )

And yet a number of phycists think parallel universes exist. Some have argued that this explains how all the force constants such as the gravitational force are all within the required narrow ranges required for life. They suggest that there are numerous parallel unverses with various parameters and that ours just so happened to meet all the parameters.

The author of Life after Life explained away ghosts as halucenations. The only thing he claims cannot be explained away is life after death experiences. On NDE, interesting that James Randi claims to have had one. He found himself on the ceiling looking down at his body on the bed with the cat curled up next to it. OOPS, this made this skeptic sit up and take notice. However, when he mentioned it to his wife, she told him that the cat could not be on the bed since it had been locked up in the basement.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 03, 2010
SG: Once the gene for antibiotic resistance develops, it starts turning up all over the world in microorganisms that were never exposed to the antibiotic.
wd: The only way that could happen is that the new mutated organisms and their offspring are carried around the world. ....
That happens too, but that's not what I was talking about. Just the drug resistent gene travels around the world in some cases. I told you there were 4 different mechanisms that microorganisms exchange/acquire genetic material (whole genes or gene segments at a time) in addition to just copying and dividing.

Coyne in his evolution book states that male testes were originaly developed withing the abdomen of a fish and later migrated outside in land males. How the heck did this come about? From what I can see, the testes need to be outside or the sperm would be damaged by too much heat. It is almost like someone intellectually decided this. BTW, it mentions that an intelligent being wouldn't do it this way because it cause potential for hernias. Still, this is taking for granted that a creator would simply know how to do this instead of not knowing and having to do trial and error.
More fitting your wishful conclusion to the evidence. You are ignoring the flaws that result from random mutation and natural selection pressures and choosing to rationalize some god would design things that way. No, makes no sense.

SG: There is no more evidence of parallel universes in NDE reports than there is evidence Hogwartz exits.
wd: And yet a number of phycists think parallel universes exist.
But it is not some place hallucinating people are popping in and out of. These are 2 completely different things and there is still no sign in those NDE reports that say, "Hogwartz thataway". You don't know enough about quantum physics and cosmology to try to discuss these topics in relationship to NDEs. It amounts to more making things up and claiming that is somehow evidence.

wd: The only thing he claims cannot be explained away is life after death experiences.
People can claim this all they want, but it's simply false. NDEs are best explained as dreams in an oxygen deprived brain. It's likely the hallucinations occur as the O2 levels decrease and return. NDEs can be reproduced when G-forces cause the blood to drain from one's brain.
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written by mandrellian, August 03, 2010
Sayeth wd:

Coyne in his evolution book states that male testes were originaly developed withing the abdomen of a fish and later migrated outside in land males. How the heck did this come about? From what I can see, the testes need to be outside or the sperm would be damaged by too much heat. It is almost like someone intellectually decided this.


Speaking of fish, you should read "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin. A great read on humanity's fishy ancestry.

Now to answer your question with a question: have you ever touched a fish?

Fish don't need external testicles because fish (a) live in a cold environment and (b) fish, being cold-blooded, don't generate the same amount of internal heat as warm-blooded land animals do. The danger of fish sperm being damaged by heat simply isn't there to the extent faced by land animals. Indeed, because of the low temperature of their environment, fish sperm need every little bit of the heat available in a fish's body, hence the internal testicles. "Your Inner Fish" describes this and many other anatomical rearrangements.

I find it strange how you report first-hand observation of fish in your own home changing gender but you can't imagine how external testicles could have developed about over several million years. I think it's time you took some members' suggestions on board and did some serious reading on evolution and not just wikipedia either: actual books by actual scientists involved in the fields they're discussing. "Your Inner Fish" is a great one to start with. Or you could just visit talkorigins.org!

BTW, it mentions that an intelligent being wouldn't do it this way because it cause potential for hernias. Still, this is taking for granted that a creator would simply know how to do this instead of not knowing and having to do trial and error.


Oh, come now. No God/intelligent creator/Great Galactic Squid worth his salt should have to use trial and error. If he/she/it can create an entire Universe out of "nothing" just because it wants to, re-jigging a pair of fish balls shouldn't be worth more than an idle thought. Are we meant to believe that this intelligent pan-dimensional immortal being needs to tinker about like some garden-shed hack?

I think the fact that Coyne, a mere human, could think of a better way to re-design fish testicles than you'd have us believe your God did is evidence either to that God's non-existence or his rank incompetence (google "recurrent layrngeal nerve" for another great example of crappy design). The fact that almost everything in biology appears to be a dodgy, incremental re-jig of a previous feature suggests neither design nor intelligence. Except, of course, if you approach the question already believing in one or both and are happy to perform mental gymnastics, goalpost-shifting, logical contortion and other athletic metaphors to justify your presupposition. If an intelligent designer really does exist, he's clearly used that intelligence to go to great lengths to convince us that he doesn't exist and has never, ever intervened either in life on this planet or space-time itself.

Really, I've read this entire thread over the past few days and I think you've gone as far as you can with "I don't see how this could have happened" as your stock answer. It's time to ask questions honestly without any preconceived ideas of what the answers should be according to what you believe (or what you've been taught to believe). There are innumerable resources to answer those questions equally honestly (in the case where an answer isn't known, there are innumerable resources which will honestly say "we don't know yet!"). Many have been suggested in this thread. Some you actually appear to have read parts of - and seemingly stopped when they made you uncomfortable. Whenever something you read starts making you uncomfortable it's a good sign you should keep reading it!



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written by mandrellian, August 03, 2010
I said

something about fish


I think it's worth nothing in this context the existence of aquatic mammals: whales, dolphins, orcas, manatees, dugongs etc. These all breathe air and are warm-blooded but all have internal testicles like fish. This is because their ancestors entered the water from the land and, over aeons, the testicles of these ancestors receded into the body to provide a proper mammalian environment for the sperm (and perhaps prevent them from being snagged on narwhals). This shows that evolution works in more than one direction, rather than being (as some caricatures suggest) A mystical one-way street to biological perfection. Whale evolution is actually one of the most fascinating stories in the history of mammals and there are abundant transitional forms, documenting the early days of semi-aquatic furry carnivorous quadrupeds up to the variations, big and small, that we're familiar with.

Now, if we're going to invoke an intelligent designer here (and many do, citing for example the perfect shape, great intelligence and athleticism of the dolphin), I'd like to ask it why it couldn't have redesigned these mammals to have a set of gills instead of leaving the lungs in. Living your entire life in water yet needing to breathe air is possibly the most illogical "design" decision you could make, yet it has occurred on this planet frequently. It not makes death by drowning very easy, it exposes you to Japanese "scientists" with rocket-powered harpoons (and as if any pan-dimensional non-temporal immortal "God" couldn't have seen that coming).

Ask yourself: would you design a monkey that moved, ate and reproduced entirely on land but had gills, which required it to go for a swim every half-hour so it didn't die? If you wouldn't, why would you accept the reverse from the alleged creator of the entire Universe? "Mysterious ways" perhaps? I think not. Non-mysterious non-existence or plain, simple non-competence.



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written by mandrellian, August 04, 2010
above: I should've said "it is worth noting in this context ... "

Edit button please?
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Bears repeating: mandrellian to wdunlap
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 04, 2010
I think the fact that Coyne, a mere human, could think of a better way to re-design fish testicles than you'd have us believe your God did is evidence either to that God's non-existence or his rank incompetence

I've read this entire thread over the past few days and I think you've gone as far as you can with "I don't see how this could have happened" as your stock answer.


Regarding the "evolution is impossible" myriad of attempts to discredit evolution theory, this god of the gaps approach is common because it's all the Creationists have. They have failed completely to find one shred of evidence FOR an alternative to evolution theory. Evidence to support magic theories is completely absent, while we can find an abundance of evidence of how/why humans create pure fiction. QED*

*(Latin for, completion of the proof)
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written by wdunlap, August 04, 2010
(That happens too, but that's not what I was talking about. Just the drug resistent gene travels around the world in some cases.)

OK, but by what means does this drug resistent gene travel around the world? Also, how can a gene survive outside a host?

(More fitting your wishful conclusion to the evidence. You are ignoring the flaws that result from random mutation and natural selection pressures and choosing to rationalize some god would design things that way. No, makes no sense. )

I WISH you would stop referring to my conclusions as wishful. smilies/smiley.gif I'm merely expressing that certain situations appear to lack a natural explaination. I am not wishing that a creator is fact. I am just looking for answers.

(. You are ignoring the flaws that result from random mutation and natural selection pressures and choosing to rationalize some god would design things that way. No, makes no sense. )

Yes there are flaws and that is used as an argument for an omnipotent, all knowing God. I am suggesting that, if a god exists, it may not be all knowing, but may have had to do trial and error.

I agree that NDEs are likely caused by oxygen deprivation. One woman said she saw a little girl balancing on one set of toes. Later, she gave birth and when the girl got a little older, this woman saw her standing on one set of toes just like what she saw in her NDE experience. I admit that this could simply have been made up, but if not.......
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written by wdunlap, August 04, 2010
OOPS. My last post was in response to Skeptic Ginger.
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written by wdunlap, August 04, 2010
In response to Mandrellian.

(Speaking of fish, you should read "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin. )

Great book, isn't it. Like I said, I have read several great books on evolution, and that was one of them.

Yeah, I was aware that fish have internal testicles because of their cold environment and being cold blooded.

(I think it's time you took some members' suggestions on board and did some serious reading on evolution and not just wikipedia either)

I have tried to get it across here that I have read a number of books on evolution. When one party suggested I read Wikipedea, I explained that a lot of writeups on Wikipeda are placed there by people like you and me so that wasn't necessarily a good source.

(Are we meant to believe that this intelligent pan-dimensional immortal being needs to tinker about like some garden-shed hack? )

Well, we did the same thing when developing things like aircraft. The first ones didn't work so well, but eventually, by trial and error, they were able to fly and got better and better. Developing life is even more complex. Why wouldn't a supernatural being have to do the same thing? This being had to develop life from scratch.

(I think the fact that Coyne, a mere human, could think of a better way to re-design fish testicles than you'd have us believe your God did is evidence either to that God's non-existence or his rank incompetence )

Thinking it and actually carrying it out are two different things. Also, it appears that the creator, rather than starting again from scratch, simply reworked fish into land creatures. Creationists think that this god simply snapped its fingers and everything appeared as we see it today. Not so.

(Really, I've read this entire thread over the past few days and I think you've gone as far as you can )

I thought so too, but Ginger came up with some very interesting answers how two separate sexes may have evolved from an asexual being. I have never seen any answers to this in my readings of evolution texts. Meanwhile, I am still reading and looking for answers. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by wdunlap, August 04, 2010
In response to Mandrellian

(This is because their ancestors entered the water from the land and, over aeons, the testicles of these ancestors receded into the body to provide a proper mammalian environment for the sperm)

Big question. Could the sperm survive the cold so that reproduction could take place? Again, just like the opposite situation when fish climbed onto land and testicles ended up outside the body, it SEEMS like it could be attributed to intelligent direction. I hasten to say that i am not saying that it is, only that it can be construed as such.

I don't know why dolphins have lungs, but they can hold their breath for a long time. Also, they merely have to go to the surface in order to get air. A monkey on the other hand is not always near water, so gills would not be at all practicle.

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written by mandrellian, August 04, 2010
I am not wishing that a creator is fact. I am just looking for answers.


Considering that people have spent days and thousands of words doing their best to provide you not only with answers but places to find more answers, forgive me if I have trouble accepting that statement at face value.

You might not be actively wishing for the existence of a creator, but you seem determined to ignore or deflect anything which doesn't point in that direction.

I am suggesting that, if a god exists, it may not be all knowing, but may have had to do trial and error.


If any kind of god exists, it's not only a rank failure at design but is for all practical purposes invisible (or very good at appearing so). If your designer/god does exist, it may as well not exist for all the input it appears to have had in the universe's layout and function. If this god exists and has indeed been using "trial and error" on Earth for 4.5 billion years, I still call failure. You'd think that would be enough time to do a little better than a hernia-prone ape with back problems who's basically a re-jigged fish, especially if this god exists - as many insist - outside of time.

The problem with saying "god did it" is twofold: first, there's absolutely no evidence either of a supernatural plane of existence (let alone evidence of an entity existing in it) and second, there's absolutely no explanatory power in the answer. "God did it" is just putting up a stop sign on the road of inquiry. You may as well say "I created the universe five minutes ago and you're all dreaming!" (Some actually do say things like that; they're called solipsists and they're utterly pointless creatures). There is as much evidence for "you're all dreaming" as there is for "god did it." Exactly none.

Finally:

I WISH you would stop referring to my conclusions as wishful. I'm merely expressing that certain situations appear to lack a natural explaination.


You're right, of course; many situations do currently lack explanations. All the more reason to keep looking for them. Noone wins by inventing a scenario which superficially answers a question but which really closes the question off from further inquiry!

I repeat: "god did it" is not an answer; it's an extra layer of mystery where none is required. If you say "god did it" the only logical response is more questions: what's a "god"? Where did it come from? What's it like? Why did it do this? Why did it do this in this way? Is it constrained by the laws of physics or did it invent them? Does it want anything? Is there more than one? Should we be afraid? Are any of the religions on Earth even close in their description of it? Why does it hide so well? Is it a ninja?

The lack of explanations for observed phenomena are the reason so many people do that little thing called science. Scientists do science to explain what is not yet explained; to fill gaps in our knowledge with more knowledge - not with whatever seems to make sense on the surface or makes people comfortable. I hope you understand this point; it underlies everything people have been saying to you.

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written by mandrellian, August 04, 2010
A thought on the "supernatural".

If we are to accept that a certain thing - such as a supernatural plane of existence - exists, we need to know its properties, attributes and perhaps location. Bascially we need to know how to know it when we see it. Thus far, noone has ever been able to agree on the properties and attributes (let alone location) of the supernatural. Noone has ever made any testable prediction of what we should see or experience should we ever encounter the supernatural. Indeed, because we humans are of the "natural" plane of existence, even if the supernatural did exist in whatever form, it's by definition impossible that we'd be able to recognise it even if we interacted with it directly. If we could perceive the supernatural, it would by definition be natural, i.e. able to be perceived by us.

What I'm saying is that we wouldn't know the supernatural if we saw it; but if we saw it, it wouldn't be what we thought it was, because it wouldn't be supernatural - because would could see it.

Further, any entity from the supernatural plane of existence would necessarily have to employ natural means to communicate with us or interact with our universe. In doing so it would be perceived as a natural entity; anything 'supernatural' that it did or said would be imperceptible to us (unless those actions had consequences here; the consequences would be perceived by us and not the supernatural activity itself). Even if the entity was successful in explaining the supernatural realm to us in terms we could understand or even allowed us a visit, paradoxically our ability to understand or perceive it would render it no longer supernatural. Unless, of course, we humans are able to experience the supernatural - but if we are, why even give it a separate term?

Disclaimer: I may be talking out of my fishy testicles, but I thought whatever that was^ needed to be said.
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written by mandrellian, August 04, 2010
I don't know why dolphins have lungs, but they can hold their breath for a long time. Also, they merely have to go to the surface in order to get air. A monkey on the other hand is not always near water, so gills would not be at all practicle.


I already said it: dolphins have lungs because they're descended from air-breathing land animals. The fact that they can hold their breath for a long time or only have to break the surface doesn't discount the fact that needing to breath air when you're essentially a fish is not convenient and does not reflect "good design". Indeed, their breath-holding ability is more evidence that they and their ancestors have been doing it for a very long time.

And how do you know where the fish-monkey lives? If they needed water to survive, they would live near water. Designing a fish-monkey who lives in a rainforest canopy, far from any bodies of water, would be even stupider than a fish-monkey who lives on the beach - or a mammal who lives like a fish. I think you've missed the point that most humans could conceptualise better-designed animals than some "god" who's had 4.5 billion years to get this stuff right!

Big question. Could the sperm survive the cold so that reproduction could take place? Again, just like the opposite situation when fish climbed onto land and testicles ended up outside the body, it SEEMS like it could be attributed to intelligent direction. I hasten to say that i am not saying that it is, only that it can be construed as such.


What we're talking about is a gradual transition from land-based to partially aquatic to fully aquatic, taking place over millions of years. Obviously the transition from external to internal testicles also happened gradually over millions of years. Any individuals whose sperm was rendered inactive by adverse conditions obviously did not reproduce; what we have to today are the descendants of the the populations who were successful. That is the essence of evolution: the survival of traits which allow an organism to produce viable offspring.

Look, when there are gaps in your knowledge anything can SEEM like something directed it to be a certain way. But seeming a certain way and actually being it are something completely different. Saying that a designer is - or even might be - responsible is not an answer; it's an admission of ignorance which only opens the floor to more questions.

Well, we did the same thing [trial and error - M] when developing things like aircraft. The first ones didn't work so well, but eventually, by trial and error, they were able to fly and got better and better. Developing life is even more complex. Why wouldn't a supernatural being have to do the same thing? This being had to develop life from scratch.


Obviously, aircraft are artificial machines and not living beings with the capacity to produce successive generations of viable offspring. As such, humans have been able to completely improve or redesign them from the ground up when necessary. In just one century we've managed not only to turn flight into something so common as to be tedious; we've landed on other worlds. Am I expected to believe a being who was able to create an entire Universe - because it wanted to - has to tinker with a whale's lungs for a billion years because he can't figure out a way to put gills in it? Whale sharks are huge and have gills - are you telling me he couldn't use those bits for a whale? In five seconds, I thought of a solution to the lung problem. Why couldn't this god? You're really stretching the point now.

I said: "I think the fact that Coyne, a mere human, could think of a better way to re-design fish testicles than you'd have us believe your God did is evidence either to that God's non-existence or his rank incompetence."

Thinking it and actually carrying it out are two different things. Also, it appears that the creator, rather than starting again from scratch, simply reworked fish into land creatures. Creationists think that this god simply snapped its fingers and everything appeared as we see it today. Not so.


By the content of your posts, your lack of similarity to a creationist is superficial and semantic. You might not believe this god just snapped his fingers, but you still seem to be intent on believing this same god took creatures back to his workshop (or whatever) and changed them incrementally over billions of years, taking great pains to make it look like they'd evolved naturally - as well as leaving literally tons of evidence behind to make it appear completely natural.
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written by wdunlap, August 04, 2010
Response to Mandrellian

(They have failed completely to find one shred of evidence FOR an alternative to evolution theory.)

I agree and have not stated that I believe that there are alternatives to evolution theory. What I have stated is that I cannot understand how both sexes of higher forms could have appeared at the same time since you need both. Reproductive system is quite complex. Ginger has suggested that we could have started with an asexual system which eventually evolved into two sexes. That certainly does open the door, but still appears difficult to achieve by chance.

( The problem with saying "god did it" is twofold: first, there's absolutely no evidence either of a supernatural plane of existence (let alone evidence of an entity existing in it) and second, there's absolutely no explanatory power in the answer.)

The problem with your statement is that there is no way to show evidence since science can only study material things. Let me ask you this. Though there is no way to show evidence, what if a supernatural being exists? How can you simply write off one based on the fact you cannot find evidence when such evidence cannot be determined. Yes, saying that a god may have did it, does add more questions, but adding more questions does not make an answer necessarily wrong. That said, it does appear that a creator, if it exists, does appear to be incompetent. Kenneth Miller in his book, Finding Darwin's God makes a great argument for evolution and adds that he believes that, rather than getting involved in development of life, God simply set up evolution. This would eliminate the incompetent argument and would allow god to contribute to things like starting off the two sexes.
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written by wdunlap, August 04, 2010
Response to Mandrellian

(What I'm saying is that we wouldn't know the supernatural if we saw it)

Exactly my point. And if a god doesn't want to make himself known, how can we still find evidence?
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written by mandrellian, August 04, 2010
Ginger has suggested that we could have started with an asexual system which eventually evolved into two sexes. That certainly does open the door, but still appears difficult to achieve by chance.


I don't believe I made the statement you're responding to and I don't know enough about sexual development to get into Ginger's territory. But the fact you seem to think evolution is all about "chance" is just more evidence that you need to understand it a little better.

The problem with your statement is that there is no way to show evidence since science can only study material things. Let me ask you this. Though there is no way to show evidence, what if a supernatural being exists? How can you simply write off one based on the fact you cannot find evidence when such evidence cannot be determined. Yes, saying that a god may have did it, does add more questions, but adding more questions does not make an answer necessarily wrong. That said, it does appear that a creator, if it exists, does appear to be incompetent. Kenneth Miller in his book, Finding Darwin's God makes a great argument for evolution and adds that he believes that, rather than getting involved in development of life, God simply set up evolution. This would eliminate the incompetent argument and would allow god to contribute to things like starting off the two sexes.


The problem with your response to my statement is that you think a lack of evidence constitutes sufficient evidence to continue believing in something for which there is no evidence!

There is no way to show evidence for the supernatural/god, yes. However, this is not something that supports your argument thus far. Since there is no way to show evidence for the existence of A then believing A exists is unreasonable. Until evidence is presented, the only logical position on the existence of A is "it is not supported." You may certainly believe A might be or even is there if you want but there's no reason to do so - apart, perhaps, that you simply want to - or have been conditioned to.

Science can only study material things - again, yes. This is not a weakness; this is simply how it is. The only evidence ever discovered for anything points to the existence only of material, natural things. Science, being a discipline of natural beings - us - can only ever hope to study that which can be shown to exist or that which has real, observable effects. If the human tool of science could study the supernatural it would simply be natural, purely because of its ability to be perceived by humans.

The questions that the non-answer "god did it" adds to a discussion aren't valid in any way unless the "god" can be shown to exist in the first instance. There's no point asking "what's god like?" or "what did it do?" if you can't answer "is there a god?" to begin with. In this case, the adding of followup questions just highlights and magnifies the "wrongness" of the initial answer.

cont...
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written by mandrellian, August 04, 2010
cont...

Kenneth Miller is a respected biologist and was a vital witness at the Dover creationism trial. I hope you're not attempting to use his religious belief as some kind of appeal to authority.

In any event, the fact that a biologist believes in God provides nothing in the way of evidence or even plausibility to the argument that God either exists or had anything to do with evolution, from setting it on auto-pilot to tinkering with testicles. All the evidence gleaned over the past 150+ years points in no way to any agency, designer, god or alien intelligence, supernatural or otherwise.

What Miller's position is evidence of is the ability of humans to hold in their minds two dissonant ideas and believe them both. It may also be evidence of the strength of passive cultural conditioning.

To flog a dead horse, it's wishful thinking. Miller wants to believe in a god, so he places one comfortably out of the reach of inquiry, winding up the universe like a toy 13.7 billion years ago and letting it spin around as it may. It may very well eliminate the incompetence argument, but it does absolutely nothing to provide evidence that the god is there.

And you know what? It's fine with me. Miller can waste time thinking like that if he wants and so can anyone else. The position that god set everything in motion and then sat back and did nothing but watch it go is called deism and, having been a deist on my road to atheism, I understand it just fine. When I realised that my deism was a product of "sure, a god did it - why not?" kinds of thinking I decided to keep on that train of thought. I eventually realised that, due to the utter lack of any evidence for the god having ever existed at all, atheism was the only logical way to describe how I felt.

But, of course, if the "god who wound it up and then scuttled off to watch" is the one we're now talking about, then natural, gradual evolution over billions of years is the only way any of what we've discussed could have happened ... and that means I've wasted hours of my life talking about fsmilies/grin.gifing fish testicles!
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written by mandrellian, August 05, 2010
And if a god doesn't want to make himself known, how can we still find evidence?


What kind of obtuse question is that?

If a god wants there to be no evidence and that god is capable of concealing or removing that evidence, then there'll be no bloody evidence! Or do you want evidence that god is concealing the evidence of his existence so you can prove his existence?

If a god wants to hide, he'll hide and we'll have no evidence he exists - any more than if he doesn't exist at all. Either way there is still no reason to believe this god is there.

I'm wondering exactly what your point is because you're taking the conversation around in frustrating little circles. If you want to believe in a god, do it. Clearly the lack of any shred of support for the idea isn't troubling you in the slightest!
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written by wdunlap, August 05, 2010
(If a god wants there to be no evidence and that god is capable of concealing or removing that evidence, then there'll be no bloody evidence!)

This is precisely my point. Both yourself and Skeptic Ginger make very good arguments that we have no evidence of a god. What I am trying to say is that, not having this evidence does not completely rule out a god or creator because this creator may not have attempted to make contact and may not show any evidence that science can detect.

(Kenneth Miller is a respected biologist and was a vital witness at the Dover creationism trial. I hope you're not attempting to use his religious belief as some kind of appeal to authority.)

Well, since Kenneth Miller has hung his hat on the Christian religion and I have determined it to be man-made, I have to disagree with this view of his. However, and I don't know if you were here when I first brought it up, Miller stated that, according to the Anthropic Principle, there are 4 forces that require extremely narrow ranges for their constants or life could not exist. For example, if gravitational force is too strong, the universe would have collapsed shortly after the big bang. If too weak, then everything would have spread apart too fast for any planets to form. If the nuclear force were too strong, then no compounds could form. If too weak, then an atom would shortly fly apart. In any of these cases, life could not form. Miller presents the argument that since these constants have such an extremely low tolerance, it is unlikely that all four of these could have ended up within the required range without the direction of a intellent supernatural being, i.e., god or creator. I feel this is a very good argument and does leave open the posibility that a creator was necessary.
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written by wdunlap, August 05, 2010
Continued response to Mandrellian,

(The problem with your response to my statement is that you think a lack of evidence constitutes sufficient evidence to continue believing in something for which there is no evidence!)

What I am really stating is that lack of evidence of a god or creator is not necessarilly evidence that one does not exist since this god or creator may simply not be detectable and may not desire to be dectected.
Though there is not evidence, I have attempted to show why a creator might be necessary. We don't know exactly how things started. Some believe there was absolutely nothing and then matter appeared and then exploded into the big bang. This may or may not be correct, but if it is, then I presented the argument that without anything existing, there would also be a lack of a cause and without a cause, a supernatural being would be necessary as the reqired cause to start things off by creating matter. I further argued that the Anthropic Principle also indicates that a creator would be necessary. So, though we cannot detect a creator, reasoning such as what I stated above could indicate the necessity for one.
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written by wdunlap, August 05, 2010
Response to Mandrellian,

(And how do you know where the fish-monkey lives? If they needed water to survive, they would live near water.)

OK, you make a good point. But it is still easier for a dolphine to leap above the surface of the water to get air than a monkeyfish to always be near water. Also, interestingly, I don't think we have any true land based animals with gills. Probably harder for animals with gills to hold their breath.

( What we're talking about is a gradual transition from land-based to partially aquatic to fully aquatic, taking place over millions of years. Obviously the transition from external to internal testicles also happened gradually over millions of years. )

Good point. Makes sense.

(Saying that a designer is - or even might be - responsible is not an answer; it's an admission of ignorance which only opens the floor to more questions.)

Then I am guilty, though I am presenting cases that may never be explained naturally. Maybe science will explain them or maybe not since that creator I mentioned may have been responsible.

(In five seconds, I thought of a solution to the lung problem. Why couldn't this god? You're really stretching the point now.)

You didn't have to create living beings from scratch, plus a creator may have started it off and provided the laws of evolution. Kenneth Miller suggests this. You say hey me and Coyne, mere human beings, came up with a solution, but neither you or any scientist can create life. Also, those whales and dolphins function just fine with lungs.
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written by mandrellian, August 05, 2010
... without a cause, a supernatural being would be necessary as the reqired cause to start things off by creating matter.


Then what caused the supernatural being to exist? And if the answer is "nothing" or "it was always there", then why can't that be sufficient for the Universe itself? Why can't the Universe have always existed or caused itself to exist? All life on this planet arose from non-living material (according to available evidence) and all creatures considered "intelligent" are descended, ultimately, from "non-intelligent" life forms. Why, then, is it necessary to invoke an intelligent cause for the Universe? If consciousness and life can arise from non-life and non-consciousness, there's no requirement whatsoever for intelligence to exist in order for more intelligence to exist.

The argument that "nothing" existed before the big bang has already been covered in this thread so I won't re-hash it - suffice it to say nobody actually knows what was "there". As nobody knows, nobody is in a position to invoke any sort of cause for the big bang, intelligent or otherwise. Anyone invoking any cause is not doing so based on evidence and is only speculating (or wishing thinkfully).

The Anthropic Principle has also been covered in this thread - and I suspect Miller is hanging his hat on the AP in order to lessen the dissonance of being a Christian evolutionist. Again, I won't rehash those arguments except to say "so what?" If it's true that a minute change in one physical constant would precluded matter coalescing into the forms we know, there's nothing to suggest some other form of matter wouldn't have eventuated. It's a moot point; if stuff was different, stuff would be ... different. It's not different, it's how it is, so here we are. Again, IF you assume a god exists, there's absolutely nothing to suggest either way that it invented the constants, fine-tunes them a bit or is as constrained by them as we are. There may only be one possible set of constants possible! If so, the god is irrelevant and the Universe would have happened anyway. If not, again, we wouldn't be here to have the discussion.

But it is still easier for a dolphine to leap above the surface of the water to get air than a monkeyfish to always be near water. Also, interestingly, I don't think we have any true land based animals with gills. Probably harder for animals with gills to hold their breath.


Nope, the land animals we have - rejigged fish like ourselves - eventually developed full-time lungs after innumerable transitional forms made the journey from water to land, and back again in some cases. Google the mudskipper and the lungfish - transtion in action.

Both yourself and Skeptic Ginger make very good arguments that we have no evidence of a god. What I am trying to say is that, not having this evidence does not completely rule out a god or creator because this creator may not have attempted to make contact and may not show any evidence that science can detect.


No, the lack of evidence doesn't rule God out completely. That's not my point. My point, which I have made repeatedly, is that this lack of evidence is no reason to assume a god exists. That's all. That's the reason I don't believe one is there. There's no evidence for the ghost of my grandfather living in my attic and making scratching noises - but I'm happy to rule out the possibility, based on the lack of evidence. If you want to think a god might be there, noone will stop you.
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written by mandrellian, August 05, 2010
You didn't have to create living beings from scratch, plus a creator may have started it off and provided the laws of evolution. Kenneth Miller suggests this. You say hey me and Coyne, mere human beings, came up with a solution, but neither you or any scientist can create life. Also, those whales and dolphins function just fine with lungs.


Again, Miller probably suggests this to keep his scientific, logical conscience from giving his religious brain a hard time. It's a bit of a contradiction to call himself a Christian - by definition a follower of an omniscient, eternal creator who intervenes in human affairs - and shove his god into a back room, relegating him to a once-only toy-maker. I wouldn't take anything Miller says about God seriously, as he's grasping at comfortable straws.

The point I was trying to make by invoking Coyne and conceptualising better arrangements of body parts was this: the products of natural evolution are no different from what we would see from a god who kicked it off and then hid for 4.5 billion years. The fact that we have no evidence of any such god leads to the only logical conclusion: there isn't one and evolution is completely natural. However, if there is a god who has designed all life forms, he's done a fricking terrible job considering he's meant to be a hyper-intelligent supernatural being.

I would like to conclude by saying, for the last time, yes: the fact that no evidence exists for a god doesn't mean you can rule gods out. Equally, the fact that no evidence exists for ghosts means I can rule them out either. However, on both counts there's no reason at all to think they're there. Why? Because there's no evidence!

A lack of evidence in any situation does not mean that you can just speculate any answer that seems to fill the hole in your knowledge. A lack of evidence means you keep looking until a real answer is found. It's a very simple concept and it is the heart of rationalism, skepticism and the scientific method.

Then I am guilty, though I am presenting cases that may never be explained naturally. Maybe science will explain them or maybe not since that creator I mentioned may have been responsible.


People once thought the Sun could never be explained naturally. Ditto many mental & physical illnesses, stars, plate tectonics, thunderstorms, evolution, genetics, gravity, infection, light, sound, blood, the moon and everything we currently know about everything. If this creator-being ever is proven to (a) exist and/or (b) explain anything at all, I shall be the first to change my mind. Until then, the weight of evidence is with scientific enquiry and the onus is on god-believers to provide some support for their beliefs - or at least just stop trying to shoehorn him into gaps in our knowledge. This god has never once answered any question - even questions that were unanswered for thousands of years were answered by science - and I see no reason to continue to invoke him.

Wdunlap, much as I've enjoyed this chat (and I have) I'm going to leave it there. I think I've said just about all I can say about why god's an unreasonable non-answer to just about any question.

All the best
M
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written by mandrellian, August 05, 2010
Equally, the fact that no evidence exists for ghosts means I can't rule them out either.


Fixed.
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Round and round the mulberry bush
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 05, 2010
OK, but by what means does this drug resistent gene travel around the world? Also, how can a gene survive outside a host?
I told you to investigate on your own the 4 different mechanisms microorganisms exchange/acquire genetic material. If you would make that effort, you would have this answer. Try Googling "plasmid" for a place to start. A gene is just some DNA or RNA. What't to survive except to not be broken down?

I WISH you would stop referring to my conclusions as wishful. I'm merely expressing that certain situations appear to lack a natural explaination. I am not wishing that a creator is fact. I am just looking for answers.
Wishful thinking involves trying to fit evidence TO a conclusion. As for appearing to lack a natural explanation, that is only in the eyes of the uninformed and the wishful thinkers. Sometimes you seem uninformed. Other times you seem to be wishfully thinking.

A very large percentage of modern medical discoveries and almost all molecular biology research depend on the validity of evolution theory. Modern agriculture (crops and food animals) research is based on evolution theory. Do you think all this successful science is an accident? Think it is based on junk science? THERE IS NO DOUBT about evolution theory. There hasn't been in decades. And almost all evolution deniers are completely unaware (or consciously ignoring) the last 20 years of tremendous advances in the molecular aspects of evolution theory. It would be laughable if it wasn't so sad that Creationist propaganda has had such a negative impact on the knowledge base of so many people.

As for Intelligent Design promoters, I suggest you look at the judge's ruling in the Kitzmiller v Dover School District case where the school board, elected by religious activists, tried to add ID to the science curriculum. The defense proved that ID was nothing but Creationism with a fake science facade. Add to that the Discovery Institute's "Wedge" doctrine and you have the big lie in a nutshell. Creationists are consciously pushing ID to wedge the Biblical story of Creation into public school science classes which the Creationists feel challenge Biblical teaching.

Yes there are flaws and that is used as an argument for an omnipotent, all knowing God. I am suggesting that, if a god exists, it may not be all knowing, but may have had to do trial and error.
Did you mean to say argument AGAINST?. The genetic flaws that exist within the genomes of living organisms are evidence of random mutation. I find it clearly wishful thinking to rationalize around that glaring problem by constructing various apologies for your ID god. (God apologists are people who find excuses for all the evidence AGAINST Biblical text.)

Well, we did the same thing when developing things like aircraft….
…Also, it appears that the creator, rather than starting again from scratch, simply reworked fish into land creatures. Creationists think that this god simply snapped its fingers and everything appeared as we see it today. Not so.
Two typical apologies. The first is ludicrous claiming an omnipotent being that can create a universe would somehow not be much smarter than humans.
The second is just what the Creationists via ID want. They want to give the appearance Biblical Creation is not contradicted by scientific evidence. The Wedge document says to make ID appear to be a valid hypothesis. For example, claiming micro but not macro evolution attempts to wedge Creationism into evolution theory. Michael Behe's whole irreducible complexity hypothesis FAILED.
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The monkey chased the weasel
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 05, 2010
it SEEMS like it could be attributed to intelligent direction.
No, it does not. Sorry but your wishful thinking just goes from one mole pop up to another.

I don't know why dolphins have lungs,
I do, as do most biologists. Land animals evolved back into water creatures and took their lungs with them. It's in the fossil record and is one of the more well documented evolution examples.

we could have started with an asexual system which eventually evolved into two sexes. That certainly does open the door, but still appears difficult to achieve by chance.
Add "natural selection" acting on "by chance" and your "difficult to achieve" goes away.

Get with the program, wd. You lack understanding about evolution theory, the theory does not have the problems you insist might be there. If you went to the doctor to get cancer treated, would you say that lacking information about how the cancer treatment worked makes it difficult for you to accept that it does? How about when you go up in a high-rise. Ever think you'd rather not go up there because you don't personally know how they engineered such a feat?

Likewise do you stick a gap god into the building engineering or the cancer treatment you don't personally understand? So why cherry pick this one area of science you don't personally know enough about and say, therefore evolution theory which no biologist worth his/her salt doesn't understand, might not be true? What nonsense. You don't need to read a book on evolution, you need to read one on the current state of genetic science.

The problem with your statement is that there is no way to show evidence since science can only study material things.
If the god you are describing either does not do anything detectable or covers its tracks, now you have a god that by definition no one can know about, including you, and you have a god that is completely irrelevant. You might as well hypothesize about Hogwartz as hypothesize gods exist.

And if a god doesn't want to make himself known, how can we still find evidence?
What if Hogwartz exists and the witches and wizards just keep erasing our memories whenever we accidentally see them?

Kenneth Miller in his book, Finding Darwin's God makes a great argument for evolution and adds that he believes that, rather than getting involved in development of life, God simply set up evolution. This would eliminate the incompetent argument and would allow god to contribute to things like starting off the two sexes.
Round and round the mulberry bush you go fitting the evidence to the conclusion. And round and round I go reminding you that you are Ignoring the evidence AGAINST gods existing, that evidence being that every god belief investigated to date has turned out to have originated as fictional mythological beings.
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
In response to mandrellian

(Then what caused the supernatural being to exist? And if the answer is "nothing" or "it was always there", then why can't that be sufficient for the Universe itself? Why can't the Universe have always existed or caused itself to exist? All life on this planet arose from non-living material (according to available evidence) and all creatures considered "intelligent" are descended, ultimately, from "non-intelligent" life forms. Why, then, is it necessary to invoke an intelligent cause for the Universe?)

The answer would have to be that this supernatural being would have to have been around always, otherwise you get in a further debate of who created the creator. But to extend this to the universe doesn't work scientific evidence has determined that the universe came about by the big bang, and therefore did not always exist. The best suggestion was provided by Skeptic Ginger that the matter that exploded in the big bang may have always existed and quantum mechanics may have been responsible for the big bang. That I can buy as a potential answer. You mention that noone knows and that is why I stated that, IF there was nothing before the big bang, as some have suggested, then there would be no available cause and a creator might be necessary. I know this has been already talked about along with Anthropic Principle. I simply repeated it since I didn't know at what point you joined the board.

(If it's true that a minute change in one physical constant would precluded matter coalescing into the forms we know, there's nothing to suggest some other form of matter wouldn't have eventuated. It's a moot point; if stuff was different, stuff would be ... different.)

You miss the point or you would not suggest that, with other parameters, some other life forms would exist. Let me repeat. If the nuclear force is too strong, compounds could not form and too weak, atoms would fly apart, i.e, no compounds, no life of any kind period. Therefore, you cannot simply write off a god as irrelevant.

(No, the lack of evidence doesn't rule God out completely. That's not my point. My point, which I have made repeatedly, is that this lack of evidence is no reason to assume a god exists. That's all. )

I'm not assuming a god exists, I am only throwing out a god as a possibilty based on the possibility that one might be necessary to start things off.

I have to add the following: I did a Google for evidence of a god to see if I overlooked somthing. All I could find is stuff written by Christian apologists. Then I found that Strovel, the one who wrote Case for Christ. He now has a book titled Case for God. Same format. He interviews various so called experts. One so called expert stated that there is lots of evidence for a god, but then he never presents any of this evidence. Funny, I used to listen to an evangelical radio broacast for fun while taking a shower, and they had Strovel on as a guest. That gave him even less credence since these evangelicals had recently declared that all things were right for Armagheden and the return of Christ. So, at the moment, I haven't any additional arguments.
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
In response to mandrellian

(It's a bit of a contradiction to call himself a Christian - by definition a follower of an omniscient, eternal creator who intervenes in human affairs - and shove his god into a back room, relegating him to a once-only toy-maker. I wouldn't take anything Miller says about God seriously, as he's grasping at comfortable straws.)

I agree. I was disappointed that he called himself a Christian instead of a Deist.
I agree too that he is reaching out towhat he feels comfortable with. However, until I read about his argument of Anthropic Principle, I was happily centered dead center as an agnostic. After reading his comments and coming up with some of my own ideas, I went to agnostic with theist leanings. Still, Skeptic Ginger and others here have suggested that it is probably best stating that you don't know. In a way they are right, but it is more fun speculating various possibilities.

(The point I was trying to make by invoking Coyne and conceptualising better arrangements of body parts was this: the products of natural evolution are no different from what we would see from a god who kicked it off and then hid for 4.5 billion years. The fact that we have no evidence of any such god leads to the only logical conclusion: there isn't one and evolution is completely natural. )

Actually there might be one slight difference. In order for life to start, a creator might have been necessary plus this creator may have set up the laws of evolution. This god was able to let life evolve on its own without having to be involved.

(I would like to conclude by saying, for the last time, yes: the fact that no evidence exists for a god doesn't mean you can rule gods out. Equally, the fact that no evidence exists for ghosts means I can rule them out either. However, on both counts there's no reason at all to think they're there. Why? Because there's no evidence!)

Makes sense to me. At least we agree that a god cannot be ruled out and I agree too that there is no evidence.

(A lack of evidence in any situation does not mean that you can just speculate any answer that seems to fill the hole in your knowledge. A lack of evidence means you keep looking until a real answer is found.)

No you cannot speculate any answer but you can speculate an intelligent creator when intellectual reasoning can be provided as a reason one might be necessary. But, this doesn't mean that science should sit back and not continue looking for a natural explanation.

( . If this creator-being ever is proven to (a) exist and/or (b) explain anything at all, I shall be the first to change my mind. Until then, the weight of evidence is with scientific enquiry and the onus is on god-believers to provide some support for their beliefs - or at least just stop trying to shoehorn him into gaps in our knowledge. This god has never once answered any question - even questions that were unanswered for thousands of years were answered by science - and I see no reason to continue to invoke him.)

I actually must say "well stated". And I find that the Christian Creationists are forced to shoehorn what the Bible says. Since I have done much research on this, I have determined that the Bible is man-made. However, as you stated, though there is no evidence for a creator, this does not rule out a creator. So, though I find that the lack of a creator could be a possibility, I have not yet ruled out the possility that one existes either.

(Wdunlap, much as I've enjoyed this chat (and I have) I'm going to leave it there. I think I've said just about all I can say about why god's an unreasonable non-answer to just about any question.)

Mandrellian, thank you. I also very much enjoyed our chat and I agree that we have pretty much said all that we can, unless I somehow come up with the evidence of a creator. smilies/smiley.gif

Take care.
W
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
In response to Skeptic Ginger

You are the perfect person to ask the following question. I listened to college professor tapes from The Teaching Company titled Science of Life which is essentially a course on Biology. The thing that really caught my ear was that animal cells are extremely complex and are essentially miniature factories. Also, there are billions of combinations of genes with fail safes. Any one of these genes are off or out of position and the cell will not function. How does something this complex come about by chance without the need for a creator?

(Wishful thinking involves trying to fit evidence TO a conclusion. As for appearing to lack a natural explanation, that is only in the eyes of the uninformed and the wishful thinkers.)

I can buy uniformed but not wishful thinking because that implies that I want it to be so, which isn't factual.

(As for Intelligent Design promoters, I suggest you look at the judge's ruling in the Kitzmiller v Dover School District case where the school board, elected by religious activists, tried to add ID to the science curriculum. The defense proved that ID was nothing but Creationism with a fake science facade. Add to that the Discovery Institute's "Wedge" doctrine and you have the big lie in a nutshell. Creationists are consciously pushing ID to wedge the Biblical story of Creation into public school science classes which the Creationists feel challenge Biblical teaching.)

Way ahead of you. PBS presented a really great mock up of the Dover trial. The creationists were completely blown out of the water. You gotta luv it!!! But, you are missing the whole point. The trial dwelt with the school board trying to force the inclusion of religious beliefs in a science class room which is designed to study material and not supernatural things. ID was simly a sneaky way to force the teaching of a religious belief in the science classroom by disguising it as science. Once again, I am not doing that. Religion bases their beliefs on faith alone. I was trying to present an argument why a creator would be necessary. I am not trying to promote a religion. Incidentally, I was so happy that these creationists got their a**es kicked. And quite annoyed by that evangelical jerk, his name slips me, making a supid statement that Dover better hope a storm or some tragedy doesn't hit them because they wont have god to save them. Same jerk who stated that the Haitians were being punished by god.

(I find it clearly wishful thinking to rationalize around that glaring problem by constructing various apologies for your ID god. (God apologists are people who find excuses for all the evidence AGAINST Biblical text.))

There you go again. You still don't have it right. I must repeat that I am no longer a Christian and that I believe that the Bible is man-made, not God-inspired. Also, I am not using the Bible in the presentation of my argument.

(The first is ludicrous claiming an omnipotent being that can create a universe would somehow not be much smarter than humans. )

On the contrary, I stated that the creator was smarter in that, if it exists, it created life and no human has been able to duplicate this effort.

(The second is just what the Creationists via ID want. They want to give the appearance Biblical Creation is not contradicted by scientific evidence. )

I agree, and they haven't yet suceeded doings so and never will.

(The Wedge document says to make ID appear to be a valid hypothesis. For example, claiming micro but not macro evolution attempts to wedge Creationism into evolution theory. Michael Behe's whole irreducible complexity hypothesis FAILED.)

Again, we agree. Behe tried to use the bacterium whip as being irreducibly complex, but evidence was presented that there were bacterium which initially had whips without mechanisms to make them function. It wasn,t until later when the rest of the mechanism evolved so that these whips funtioned.
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Try as you will...
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 06, 2010
... you cannot make the rational Universe be what you want it to be. It is what it is. You should consider believing in gods all you want, but perhaps you should stop trying to make claims a god hypothesis belongs or fits into the rational theory of the Universe.

The answer would have to be that this supernatural being would have to have been around always, otherwise you get in a further debate of who created the creator.
"It's turtles all the way down", is a way of telling you that adding a god layer to any explanation really adds nothing to the explanation. In rational theories one cannot simply add irrational layers because one would like to see them there, or because one can make up a fictional story of how the god layer could be there. It's no different than adding a fictional story of how Hogwartz could exist with we Muggles not being aware of it.

I'm not assuming a god exists, I am only throwing out a god as a possibilty based on the possibility that one might be necessary to start things off.
By those rules, Hogwartz is a reasonable possibility.

I have to add the following: I did a Google for evidence of a god to see if I overlooked somthing. All I could find is stuff written by Christian apologists. Then I found that Strovel, the one who wrote Case for Christ. He now has a book titled Case for God. Same format. He interviews various so called experts. One so called expert stated that there is lots of evidence for a god, but then he never presents any of this evidence. Funny, I used to listen to an evangelical radio broacast for fun while taking a shower, and they had Strovel on as a guest. That gave him even less credence since these evangelicals had recently declared that all things were right for Armagheden and the return of Christ. So, at the moment, I haven't any additional arguments.
Here's one of those times where you drift back into the rational world. Now if you could just see it when you are drifting out. smilies/grin.gif
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
Resonse to Skeptic Ginger

(Land animals evolved back into water creatures and took their lungs with them. It's in the fossil record and is one of the more well documented evolution examples.)


Yes of course. I knew that.

(]Add "natural selection" acting on "by chance" and your "difficult to achieve" goes away.)

But does it? Think about it. You have to have a male with a penus and a system to produce sperm and a female with eggs and a way to receive the sperm from the male and a cavity to hold the developing baby and a way for the baby to be removed from the female. When you look at all this, the statement that it all came about by chance is no longer so cut and dry. Looks again like a creator may be very necessary.

(. If you went to the doctor to get cancer treated, would you say that lacking information about how the cancer treatment worked makes it difficult for you to accept that it does? How about when you go up in a high-rise. Ever think you'd rather not go up there because you don't personally know how they engineered such a feat?)

No, I wouldn't question it. Do you realize what you have presented to me? Doctor treating cancer and the building of the building were all by intelligent design. I rest my case. smilies/smiley.gif

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written by latsot, August 06, 2010
Have you realised yet that wdunlap is the most creationisty creationist ever to stalk the land and is not worth enaging with at all?
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Endless Loop.
written by DataJack, August 06, 2010
wdunlap said:

"...If the nuclear force is too strong, compounds could not form and too weak, atoms would fly apart, i.e, no compounds, no life of any kind period. Therefore, you cannot simply write off a god as irrelevant."

Please stop repeating that line - there is no "nuclear force". There are two forces associated with atoms: The Strong Nuclear and Weak Nuclear. They are nothing like one another. They perform two radically different functions.

If you were talking about the strong force, you should have said "if the strong force were stronger, compounds couldn't form _at the same temperatures_ that they do. If it were weaker, nuclei (not atoms) would fly apart _at a lower energy level then they do now_." There is not some magical glue (heh, "gluon") holding quarks and nucleons together, it has measurable properties. We know this because we have studied it - with science.

In any event, it doesn't matter. The universe is not fine-tuned for us, we are evolved for it. If those parameters were different, we would be different. If they were so different that stars couldn't form or fuse, then we wouldn't be having this discussion. That is it. The fact that were are here does not mean something intelligent is responsible. It is far more likely that we just got lucky.

The gap god you are inserting has properties that make it completely unbelievable:
Where is it? Outside the universe
What does that mean? We don't know.
What created it? Nothing, it's eternal
How can that be? We don't know.
Why can't we detect it?
It is supernatural (the only supernatural thing ever posited that is real)
What does that mean? We don't know.

Compared to:
What caused the Big Bang? We don't know...yet.
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written by DataJack, August 06, 2010
wdunlap then said:
"The answer would have to be that this supernatural being would have to have been around always, otherwise you get in a further debate of who created the creator. But to extend this to the universe doesn't work scientific evidence has determined that the universe came about by the big bang, and therefore did not always exist."

Scientific evidence has determined the observable universe was started (not created) at the big bang. That does not say anything at all about anything beyond the observable universe. I would rather think branes or some other non-sentient "eternal" non-being is responsible, rather then a god in a heaven.

We can assign no properties to what caused the big bang. It is outside of time as we measure it. Why do you find it so easy to believe in other space dimensions (this place your god lives) but find it impossible to believe in other time dimensions (you are stuck on this single arrow, marching in one direction).
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
In response to Skeptic Ginger

("It's turtles all the way down", is a way of telling you that adding a god layer to any explanation really adds nothing to the explanation.)

Maybe not, but science hasn't really provided satisfaction here.

(By those rules, Hogwartz is a reasonable possibility.)

Why do atheists have to make up something silly with the hope it will provide guilt by association, i.e., that a creator is just silly? I much prefer your argument that there is no evidence.

( Here's one of those times where you drift back into the rational world. Now if you could just see it when you are drifting out. smilies/grin.gif )

Hee, hee. I've never left.
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,

(There are two forces associated with atoms: The Strong Nuclear and Weak Nuclear. They are nothing like one another. They perform two radically different functions)

I believe it is strong nuclear force.

(In any event, it doesn't matter. The universe is not fine-tuned for us, we are evolved for it. If those parameters were different, we would be different.)

But it does matter. If no compounds could form there would be nothing there for life to exist, so no evolution.

You want for me to provide a concrete description of a creator and where it exists. If a creator does exists and has not chosen to make itself known, there is no way to know these answers. What I can tell you that a creator, if it exists, would be far beyond anything we can imagine and certainly far above the made-up god in the Bible.

(What caused the Big Bang? We don't know...yet.)

I already gave you a viable possibility. smilies/cheesy.gif

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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
In response to Data Jack.

Hi, welcome back. smilies/smiley.gif

(We can assign no properties to what caused the big bang. It is outside of time as we measure it. Why do you find it so easy to believe in other space dimensions (this place your god lives) but find it impossible to believe in other time dimensions (you are stuck on this single arrow, marching in one direction).)

That's easy. If there is a creator, it would make sense that it would likely exist in its own dimension. However, if there is no creator, then it is more difficult stating whether or not other dimensions exist. The argument that numerous universes are being spit out like an organic animal giving birth to many children as an argument that this would explain how we could have eventually ended up with one that has all the force parameters within the correct range doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
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written by wdunlap, August 06, 2010
OK, at the risk that Skeptic Ginger may post a utube version of kids singing Round and round the mulberyy bush, I'm pretty much finished. I can only find so many ways of saying the same thing. I will say this, that I have argued this on Friendly Atheist board and, though there were a couple of very sharp people debating with me, I believe the comments and discussion here have been the best. Thanks Skeptic Ginger, Mandrellian, Data Jack, Latsot (before his posts deteriorated into name calling-I was wrong when I suggested that noone here would get pissy like what I have experienced with Christian Apologists) and anyone I left out. I really enjoyed our discussions very very much and have learned a lot. Thanks again.
Take care all. smilies/smiley.gif

WDunlap
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Enough is enough, wdunlap. I am no longer convinced you are the least bit interested in the truth.
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 06, 2010
Wdunlap: But does it?
YES, IT DOES. GET OVER THIS NONSENSE. EVOLUTION HAPPENS. QUIT READING DENIER'S WEB PAGES AND START READING SCIENTIFIC PAPERS!!!!

No, I wouldn't question it. Do you realize what you have presented to me? Doctor treating cancer and the building of the building were all by intelligent design. I rest my case.
There you go again cherry picking which facts to pay attention to. Guess what? The vast majority of new cancer treatments are being intelligently designed by medical biologists based on the fact evolution theory is the correct theory, because biologists understand cellular processes so well they can now design cancer treatments. Before genetic science, medical researchers found treatments mostly via trial and error.

But before you go cherry picking tiny bits of that statement to try to fit the evidence to your WISHFUL conclusion, here's the rub. Evolution theory is about random mutation and natural selection. Intelligent design was looked at and discarded because the evidence failed. Michael Behe's irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum EVOLVED. Genetic scientists were able to find the genetic sequence that led to the flagella. RANDOM CHANGES AND NATURAL SELECTION is not something scientists are speculating about. It is the basis of all biology.

What you totally are failing to understand here with this endless BS of yours is what I told you earlier. You are arguing from ignorance. You may not personally 'get it' but the rest of us do. Why would you think, knowing you are ignorant of this science, that your god contemplating has any validity whatsoever compared to a knowledgeable evolutionary biologist discovering an incredible cancer cure using the most up to date evolution science? That's what genetic science is, you know. Genetic science answered all those ignorant claims of no transitional species and supposedly impossible odds. The reason we know the odds are not impossible is because we can see exactly how you get from A to B.

Maybe not, but science hasn't really provided satisfaction here.
Know anyone who has been cured of cancer? I'm betting lots of people have been quite satisfied with evolution theory science that led to the development of a number of cancer cures.

Why do atheists have to make up something silly with the hope it will provide guilt by association, i.e., that a creator is just silly? I much prefer your argument that there is no evidence.
So you recognize a fictional hypothesis like Hogwartz, but you are incapable of recognizing your god hypothesis is equally fictional. You might want to work on that one.

You got a few quote attributes above wrong. I didn't say anything in this exchange about strong and weak nuclear forces that I recall.

Thanks Skeptic Ginger, Mandrellian, Data Jack, Latsot (before his posts deteriorated into name calling...
While I thought latsot was getting a bit harsh, your last few posts left me feeling similar frustration. The problem is you claim to be interested in learning the truth, but then you demonstrate that you are not really interested. It's hard to believe you are not lying. At a minimum your inability to actually consider factual science wasted a lot of people's time in this discussion.

But you would not be the first Creationist who cannot get over the fact their god beliefs are not supported by observation of the actual Universe. If you ever do decide to be honest with yourself about the real evidence, maybe something we've posted here will come back to you.
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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
In response to Skeptic Ginger,

Read my lips. I BELIEVE EVOLUTION IS FACT, and I have stated that numerously. Your problem is that because I suggest that a creator might be necesssary, you assume that I don't really believe in evolution. That assumption is not correct. There is no denying that science is wonderful, but it cannot completely write off the possibilty of a creator, well at least not yet.

I stated that I have learned a lot and have been pulled further back towards center of agnosic from my theist leanings. And you are wrong when you say I'm not able to actually consider factual science. I assume that you are referring to a creator. If that is true, then science should be able to come out with evidence that one does not exist. As far as my thoughts go, I can only use speculation. Unlike you I am willing to accept your view as a very plausible possibilty, whereas you very reluctantly accept mine, if really at all. Whether you accept it or not, I am an agnostic with theist leanings. BTW creationism tends to refer to the belief based on the Bible. That isn't me.
Have a great day.
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written by latsot, August 07, 2010
wdunlap:

(me) before his posts deteriorated into name calling-I was wrong when I suggested that noone here would get pissy like what I have experienced with Christian Apologists


I'm going to go right ahead and say AH DIDDUMS. Come on, wdunlap, you ignored many of my arguments and then later my entire posts. You tried to pretend I never existed. You lied and lied and lied about what several people here said and even seemed pretty confused about what you yourself said in some cases.

You said all along that you believed there is a creator then took exception to being called a creationist. You lied all along and took exception to being called a liar.

You have avoided all opportunities to read criticisms of your arguments, several times to the extent of pretending you hadn't seen the counter arguments in the very wikipedia articles you yourself quoted. When questioned about that, you were quite happy to admit that you didn't bother to read those parts of the articles and didn't even seem to understand what you should have. Several people pointed out similar counter-arguments but you still (dishonestly) pretended they didn't and ignored those arguments. In doing this, surely you tacitly admitted to cherry picking in the worst possible way. And then you flat out denied that you picked cherries, despite your hands and lips being stained red.

I'm speculating of course, but did you come here - like many of your fellow creationists - to feed your persecution complex, or did you come to *learn*?

If the latter, you've made a woefully bad job of it. You didn't read the things we suggested you did. You didn't read or reason about why your arguments were wrong. You started with a point of view andd you had no intention of changing it. Or so I suspect.

I'm glad you had a good experience here and I hope you come back. But if you do, for goodness' sake have a new argument. Be prepared to defend it rather than repeating it dozens of times without variation or comprehension. And - most imoportantly - remember that it's ok for people to roll their eyes at obvious idiocy.

I roll my eyes. I'm not calling you an idiot, but what you are promoting is simple, obvious idiocy. As I roll my eyes, dry yours. Get used to people not taking stupid opinions seriously.
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written by latsot, August 07, 2010
"didn't even seem to understand what you should have."

I meant "why" not "what"
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I share latsot's frustration with your posts, wdunlap
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 07, 2010
Read my lips. I BELIEVE EVOLUTION IS FACT, and I have stated that numerously. Your problem is that because I suggest that a creator might be necesssary, you assume that I don't really believe in evolution. That assumption is not correct. There is no denying that science is wonderful, but it cannot completely write off the possibilty of a creator, well at least not yet.
This is called weaseling. It's the micro but not macro weaseling. It's an example of a successful Wedge strategy distorting the science ever so slyly so as to slip Creationism in with the appearance it really isn't contradicted by the science.

In your case in these posts you claim to accept evolution theory out of one side of your mouth, while out of the other side you claim it has so many holes in the theory that you doubt the core principle of the theory, that of how life evolved by natural selection pressures acting on random changes in the genetic blueprint. There is nothing in that core principle that says the theory explains EVERYTHING EXCEPT: [fill in the blank with Creationism's wedgies].

Whether you get the analogy or not, by using this Wedge strategy, the 'Hogwartz exists hypothesis' is equally likely. After all, the wizards could just be erasing our memories every time we accidentally see them. You cannot prove they are not.

I, (and others posting here as far as I can tell) do not care at all if you believe in gods. But I do care about the scientific process and valid science. Weaseling wedges into the science of evolution theory weakens the critical thinking skills of the public. It weakens the validity of science. If you really believe evolution theory is correct, why on Earth would you weasel contrived flaws into the theory that a god is then needed to correct? That is not evolution theory or evolution science. Neither the theory nor the science have such flaws. The theory explains all the weasel wedges you've brought up in this exchange. It's time for you to quit talking out of two sides of your mouth. You cannot believe evolution theory is correct at the same time you believe it does not fully explain how life on Earth evolved.

I stated that I have learned a lot and have been pulled further back towards center of agnosic from my theist leanings. And you are wrong when you say I'm not able to actually consider factual science. I assume that you are referring to a creator. If that is true, then science should be able to come out with evidence that one does not exist.
Prove Hogwartz doesn't exist.

As far as my thoughts go, I can only use speculation. Unlike you I am willing to accept your view as a very plausible possibilty, whereas you very reluctantly accept mine, if really at all. Whether you accept it or not, I am an agnostic with theist leanings. BTW creationism tends to refer to the belief based on the Bible. That isn't me.
The belief you describe is Deism and while supposedly not based on the Bible, it still has Judeo-Christian roots. Creationism refers to a god creating the Universe. It is not strictly a Judeo-Christian concept.

As for "unwilling to consider" gods, this is a Wedge strategy straw man. When science finds no evidence of gods and finds that evolution theory explains life quite well without any magic or god intervention necessary, this is not the same as the lie that we are "unwilling" to consider gods. Wedge strategists need to counter the big problem that there is no evidence FOR gods. They have to create the impression scientists REFUSE to entertain the possibility of gods.

This is the key reason I don't agree with the Swift author in this discussion. When scientists say they don't look for designers, they mean something very complex and nuanced. When the lay public hears that science doesn't look for designers it plays right into the hands of the Wedge strategists' straw man that the reason science finds no evidence FOR gods is that scientists REFUSE to consider gods might exist. The Wedge strategy is essentially a dishonest propaganda strategy.
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Admin is back to review posts. :'(
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 07, 2010
Expect my reply to show up above this one, eventually. smilies/cry.gif
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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger,

(There you go again cherry picking which facts to pay attention to. Guess what? The vast majority of new cancer treatments are being intelligently designed by medical biologists based on the fact evolution theory is the correct theory, because biologists understand cellular processes so well they can now design cancer treatments. Before genetic science, medical researchers found treatments mostly via trial and error. )

First of all I am trying to respond to all your comments. I simply could not resist to jump on all your intellectual developments like people engineering buildings or doctors developing cancer treatments. I admit that it was tongue in cheek. That is why I added the smiley face. Sorry, it was not meant to anger you. The Devil made me do it. smilies/smiley.gif As far as doctors using evolution to develop treatment for cancer, I'm with you there, but this still doesn't disprove a god.

(At a minimum your inability to actually consider factual science wasted a lot of people's time in this discussion. )

This comment seems a bit disingenuous since I have pretty much stated that yours and other's comments there have made me sit back and rethink my position, but you seem to expect me to say "alright, you are 100% correct." That really is not fair. On the other hand you won't budge an inch on what I have presented to you, but that is alright if I wasted my time there. You keep hammering on lack of evidence, but try to gloss over my reasoning why a creator might be possible.

(The problem is you claim to be interested in learning the truth, but then you demonstrate that you are not really interested.)

I've already told you that I like your arguments. But again you are being a bit disingenuous when you state above that what you have said is the truth, meaning what I have said is not. You come across here as patronizing.

( maybe something we've posted here will come back to you.)

It already has. How many times do I have to say that. I am happy to say I have learned somthing here. I agree with you that evolution is a complex subject, but I am willing to learn and am reading another book on evolution. My only problem is that it doesn't answer the questions I have which I have described here. You have come up with one suggestion not mentioned in my books. Perhaps I will find something additional that will give me that ah ha moment just like when Randi put an appendix in his book The Mask of Nostradamis where he shows a verse in the Bible that showed Jesus as just another failed prophet by his saying that some of the people there would still be alive when his Father arrived in glory in his Kingdom, i.e., it was supposed to happen then, not milleniums later. I then found stuff by Bart Erhman which gave further evidence that Jesus was indeed a failed prophet.
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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
In response to latsot,

Latsot, what is a shame is you had a lot to offer, but then you got caught up in this "who shot John" name calling. I tried to respond to you, but you continued in this destructive course, so I had to give up. I am here to have a civil discussion. Time is limited and wasting it trying to defend myself against your name calling didn't seem very productive. Your insisting that I use Wickepedia as a resource is pointless since anyone like you or me can post stuff there without it being edited for correctness. Someone suggested Talk Origins. I used to read that long ago as a newsgroup, but the last time I got on there, they stated that some jerks, maybe true creationists, broke into it and caused havoc. Anyway, as Ginger has stated, we have been going around in circles. Time to call it a day.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 07, 2010
I'm with you there, but this still doesn't disprove a god.

Or Hogwartz.

I have pretty much stated that yours and other's comments there have made me sit back and rethink my position, but you seem to expect me to say "alright, you are 100% correct." That really is not fair. On the other hand you won't budge an inch on what I have presented to you, but that is alright if I wasted my time there. You keep hammering on lack of evidence, but try to gloss over my reasoning why a creator might be possible.

This is a tricky one because we're right and you are wrong. Science isn't about compromise. It's not about give and take. It is about the best explanation for the evidence.

You are telling us what you know, what makes sense to you. What we are telling you is what the evidence supports, what science has revealed. It's not what I have learned or the limits of what I have learned. If you were well versed on evolution theory and brought up legitimate unanswered questions, that would be one thing. But all you are bringing up are things you personally don't understand about evolution theory. I understand them perfectly. How can you expect me to agree with something based on the fact you just don't know something when I do know that something?

I've already told you that I like your arguments. But again you are being a bit disingenuous when you state above that what you have said is the truth, meaning what I have said is not. You come across here as patronizing.

You went back to repeating yet another thing about evolution theory you have not yet learned as if it were a legitimately informed argument. And herein lies the problem. You fluctuate between admitting you don't know and claiming evolution theory cannot explain [X]. It is only the former. Evolution theory explains every [X] you believe is not yet explained. If you don't want people to reach the ends of their ropes with you in these discussions, you need to first recognize it is not valid to argue from the ignorance you base your arguments on.

And here is a perfect example of your argument from ignorance:
My only problem is that it doesn't answer the questions I have which I have described here.




Latsot, what is a shame is you had a lot to offer, but then you got caught up in this "who shot John" name calling.

I believe he got frustrated going round the mulberry bush.


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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
(And here is a perfect example of your argument from ignorance:
My only problem is that it doesn't answer the questions I have which I have described here.
)

And why is that? I believe it is because books on evolution do not attempt to answer these questions.

(If you don't want people to reach the ends of their ropes with you in these discussions, you need to first recognize it is not valid to argue from the ignorance you base your arguments on. )

If that is the case, then the problem is yours because you think you have the only possible correct answer and that I don't. I have presented several fronts, not just evolution but you refuse to entertain any of them. You state that Latsot got frustrated going around the mulberry bush, but you aren't willing to take into account that I was just as frustrated. I don't know how many times I had to repeat that with gravitational force and/or strong nuclear force being too weak or too strong, no life can exist. But still I would get back the answer that life would exist in another form, so then I would have to explain once again that with a strong nuclear force being too stong, no compounds could form, therefore, no life of any kind could form, etc, etc, etc. Ginger, there are two sides of this argument, but you are so certain that yours is the only one that you are completely unwilling to entertain an alternative one.

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The problem of not knowing what one does not know
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 07, 2010
And why is that? I believe it is because books on evolution do not attempt to answer these questions.

No, the books (or Googling) you have read may not have had the answer. Evolution theory most definitely does have the answers. You have not brought up one single thing evolution theory has not explained.

I can't tell you how many times someone has tried to make the same argument you are making about the evolution of sexual reproduction. People have tried to tell me evolution theory cannot explain evolution of the eye, the liver, the gut, wings, and Behe's bacterial flagella. In each and every case, all I had to do was a bit of investigating to find a description of how each respective thing evolved. All it takes is basic knowledge of the genetic science component of evolution theory and a look at current life on Earth today to find examples of progressively simpler or progressively more complex versions of whatever [X] you are interested in the evolution of.

If that is the case, then the problem is yours because you think you have the only possible correct answer and that I don't.

I'm not speculating, I KNOW. That is where we differ in this discussion.

Ginger, there are two sides of this argument, but you are so certain that yours is the only one that you are completely unwilling to entertain an alternative one.

There are not two sides to every scientific debate. And there you go repeating the straw man that because I know more about evolution theory than you do, including the answers you think aren't there, I am "unwilling to entertain the alternative answers you propose. I am unwilling to pretend I don't know something I do know. You are asking me to accept your speculative answer when I already know the actual answer.

Have you ever heard of being ignorant of the things you are ignorant about so you are not aware of what you don't know? That is what you are doing here. People in this discussion know more about evolution theory than you do. We don't think you are wrong, we know you are wrong. But you are unable to recognize just how wrong you are because you don't know what you don't know. Instead of recognizing you don't know something, you keep repeating that no one knows those things.

I'm pretty sure you are doing the same thing with your quantum physics debate but I haven't been following that discussion.
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Oy vey!
written by mandrellian, August 07, 2010
Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in.

Quoth wd:

Since I have done much research on this, I have determined that the Bible is man-made. However, as you stated, though there is no evidence for a creator, this does not rule out a creator. So, though I find that the lack of a creator could be a possibility, I have not yet ruled out the possility that one existes either.


Assuming you've concluded other religious texts are man-made as well, where exactly does this idea of your creator come from in the first place? If it's not religion is it your desire for there to be one or a lack of understanding of nature, logic and evidence (or a combination)? Or do you simply consider yourself open-minded? If you do, then perhaps you'd like to rethink that position. A truly open-minded person is okay with the answer "I don't know" or "there's not enough evidence to base an opinion on."

Having said that, if you were to say "no, it's not religion" I'd have a hard time accepting that, as basically the only schools of thought to ever advance a "creator" theory have been religious in nature. Considering the all-pervading nature of religion I'd have trouble accepting that you just came up with yourself.

Why do atheists have to make up something silly with the hope it will provide guilt by association, i.e., that a creator is just silly? I much prefer your argument that there is no evidence.


Why do religious people have to make up something silly with the hope it will provide an explanation, i.e. that a creator is responsible for whatever we don't currently understand? I much prefer our argument that the fact that we don't know an answer is no reason to insert a god as placeholder.

Sorry to be irritating, but that needed a response in kind. Atheists/skeptics make up these silly things in an attempt to illustrate how any position held without evidence is just that: silly. The counter-example could just as easily have been Achilles or Silver Surfer as Hogwarts. All people are trying to do is show that when people use "god" as an answer, it carries as much logical and evidential weight as any ancient hero, any comic hero or any place or person everyone "knows" is fictional. Unfortunately, after peoples' patience has been exhausted, ridicule is sometimes the only way to debate.

... science should be able to come out with evidence that [a creator] does not exist.


Has noone ever explained to you that the burden of proof lies with the person making a positive claim? I know for a fact that many have tried exactly that, yet here we are days later and you're asserting the exact opposite. It is impossible to absolutely prove the non-existence of anything, because that would require the absolute & perfect knowledge of everything.

Think about a legal case: the state claims that I killed someone. It's not the job of my lawyer to positively prove that I didn't; it's the job of the state to positively prove that I did - not just by saying "we shouldn't rule out the possibility that Mandrellian killed that guy" but by actually showing evidence that I killed him. It's the same burden of proof with any claim. If you can't provide support for your claim, it's useless.

I doubt I'll contribute here again, but I can't rule out the possibility. However, even with three or four intellgent people attempting over many days to calmly explain the entire Universe, from the Big Bang to physics to evolution to microbiology to the simple concepts of logic & evidence, it's pretty clear you're determined to think there's a god there regardless of what anyone says, to read between the parts you don't find comfortable and to repeatedly ask obtuse questions. It's a shame because there are flashes of rationality in your posts, but they're mostly obscured by your obvious desire to believe in unsupported myth.

Bye for now (but please go and read some more)
M



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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
Response to Ginger,

OK, OK, you might just be right about me not knowing enough about evolution. I guess it isn't going to be as simple as my discovery of evidence that religion is man-made. However, I don't agree that there is only one side to this debate. Kenneth Miller makes a very good point with his Anthropic Principle argument.
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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
In response to mandrellian

(Assuming you've concluded other religious texts are man-made as well, where exactly does this idea of your creator come from in the first place? If it's not religion is it your desire for there to be one or a lack of understanding of nature, logic and evidence (or a combination)? Or do you simply consider yourself open-minded? If you do, then perhaps you'd like to rethink that position. A truly open-minded person is okay with the answer "I don't know" or "there's not enough evidence to base an opinion on." )

Best to give a little history. Raised a Christian, but had questions that bothered me like why would Jesus be fervently preaching for the people to prepare for the coming kingdom if it were not to happen milleniums from now. Religious sources including minister couldn't provide an answer. Finally, I find answer from nonreligous source. Jesus actually states that it is supposed to happen within the life time of the people he is preaching to. This is in the oldest source of Mark. This blows Christianity out of the water for me. Further research confirms this. More research shows Old Testament is also man-made as well. Next question comes to mind is whether or not a creator of any sort exists. So far, evolution texts have created more question rather than a pat answer. A college course on tape from Teaching company shows that a cell is a very complex factory and that there are something like a billion things necessary to make it work as well as safeguards. At the risk of being categorized with Behe, the cell apppears too complex to come about by chance and further combine in a combination with other cells to produce a complex organism. I simply cannot see it coming about without some sort of intelligent design. Here's where I get in trouble because ID is associated with literal interpretation of the Bible. My desire is not wishing there is a god. What I am looking for is truth just as I was when things I read in the Bible didn't make sense. That is why, though I call myself an agnostic, meaning I don't know, I still can't sit back and leave it there. I want to find answers. I read Kenneth Miller's excellent evolution book, Finding Darwin's God in which he presents the interesting argument that the Anthropic Principle could indicate that a creator was necessary. Since I already felt that a creator might be necessary, I found this argument very interesting. So, though I believe I have an open mind and I admit that I don't know, I still desire to speculate the answer since, as yet, I have not found the answer in science, but I am still looking and dislike being called a creationists since these people have closed minds and simply get their answers from the Bible believing it is the word of God.

(Having said that, if you were to say "no, it's not religion" I'd have a hard time accepting that, as basically the only schools of thought to ever advance a "creator" theory have been religious in nature. Considering the all-pervading nature of religion I'd have trouble accepting that you just came up with yourself. )

Why would you have trouble accepting that I just came up with a creator by myself? Why would it have to be relgion? Aristotle came up with the unmoved mover and he was a philosopher. I myself do not believe in any religion since I don't believe any religion knows what a god or creator would look like, if one existed.

( Why do religious people have to make up something silly with the hope it will provide an explanation, i.e. that a creator is responsible for whatever we don't currently understand? I much prefer our argument that the fact that we don't know an answer is no reason to insert a god as placeholder.)

Perhaps it is a way to make a creator, if it exists, into something personal. Me, if a creator exists, it would be far beyond anything anyone could imagine. Why don't I just leave it as I do not know? Because, like the Greek philosophers, I want to attempt to come up with a possible answer based on reason since I know damn well I can't base it on evidence whether or not a creator exists or not. Yes, I know I could be dead wrong and it all somehow started off by chance, but I don't think that that possibility can be completely written off either.
To be continued
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written by wdunlap, August 07, 2010
Further response to mandrellian,

(Atheists/skeptics make up these silly things in an attempt to illustrate how any position held without evidence is just that: silly.)

In a way I see your point. I admit to not having evidence, just posible reasons why a creator might be necessary.


(Has noone ever explained to you that the burden of proof lies with the person making a positive claim?)

But don't you see? If someone makes a negative claim, they are also saddled with the burden of proof as well. I'm told that I should accept I don't know as an answer, but those telling me that refuse to take this position, instead they say I can't be right since there is no evidence even though there is no negative evidence as well. As far as I can see, there is two possibilities. One, it came about by chance. Two, a creator was responsible. Adding hogworts and unicorns to the mix really makes no sense. BTW, I'm reading National Geographic and it gives the Indian rino the name Rinocerous Unicornius. See that, a unicorn really exists. smilies/cheesy.gif

OK, I've covered everything but the court case. I got to get up early tomorrow, so I will bid you a good night. Also, I very much appreciate your remarks. I really think your remarks and others here have given me something to go on in my quest for the truth.

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written by mandrellian, August 07, 2010
If someone makes a negative claim, they are also saddled with the burden of proof as well


Incorrect!

Atheism is NOT, repeat, NOT a claim! It is a response to the specific theistic claim that gods exist. It is a negative response, true, but it's not a claim to knowledge.

The statement "I don't like chocolate", does NOT mean "Chocolate is horrible," it means "Chocolate is not to my taste." In the same way, "I don't believe your god exists" does not mean "Your god does not exist," it means "Your claim that god exists is not supported."

It's very simple (or at least it should be): person A says "X exists" but can point to no evidence. Person B therefore has no logical option to believe X exists. It's not up to Mr B to disprove X; it's up to Mr A to support X in the first place. If Mr A can't do that, Mr B is justified in his non-belief.

Now, while Mr B can't logically dismiss the possibility of X existing, the fact that there's no evidence at all for X makes the probability of X existing so vanishingly small that to believe in X would be nonsensical, illogical and unreasonable.

If you're really on an honest quest for the truth, then please do yourself (and anyone you'll have debates with in the future) a favour and do some reading on evidence, logic, truth claims etc. When both sides of an argument understand common concepts and terminology the debate goes smoothly, even if their viewpoints are completely opposed. However you seem to want to redefine commonly accepted concepts like "burden of proof" and "evidence" to suit what you already think is true. Frankly, it's counterproductive, flat wrong and for some people very irritating.

I'm glad you've got something out of this discussion (I have as well - sharper rhetorical claws!). However, for you to get anything more out of future discussions you'll need to honestly evaluate your reasons for thinking what you think and make an effort to understand the concepts being discussed. You're clearly not a Genesis-believing creationist fool, but as you employ similar rhetorical tactics in order to justify believing in unsupported myth, it's obvious that you share a common ancestor.




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Miller also tries to fit evidence to his desired conclusion
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 07, 2010
Kenneth Miller makes a very good point with his Anthropic Principle
Well, actually all he presents is a conviction everything seems so miraculous to him that he cannot imagine any explanation except a god did it.

If the Universe weren't conducive to life we wouldn't be here. That's not an argument for god, it's just more of the same, fitting the evidence to the conclusion.

There are many discussions of Miller's God which address why his arguments don't hold water, if you are interested here's a good one to mull over:

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Yin.cfm#antro
YIN AND YANG OF KENNETH MILLER - How Professor Miller finds Darwin's God
…. the yang being his masterful defense of Darwinism and the evolution theory and the yin, his assertion of his religious faith, ..…

…Having dealt with the anti-evolutionists and inflicted devastating blows on them in the yang part of his book, Miller then proceeds to the yin part wherein he sets a goal – to justify his religious faith as supposedly supported by the data of science. Let us see how he succeeded in that endeavor….

… The yin part is more of a theological character and is long on repetitive arbitrary assertions but short on factual or logical substantiation. We do not see in the yin part any empirical data…nor any logical discourse wherein a certain clearly stated premise is followed by a logical sequence of notions leading to a conclusion. What we see, instead, is a display of an intelligent and insightful mind desperately trying to prove to himself that his religious faith has a rational foundation. …not because his arguments are doubtful or weak, but simply because there are no arguments at all, just assertions not supported by evidence




I admit to not having evidence, just posible reasons why a creator might be necessary.
This is akin to saying, erasing our memory is a 'possible reason' Hogwarts might exist and we would not know about it.

There is a difference between wishful speculation aka trying to fit the evidence to the conclusion you want, and developing an hypothesis that follows logically from the evidence.
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written by mandrellian, August 07, 2010
Why would you have trouble accepting that I just came up with a creator by myself? Why would it have to be relgion?


First, because even Aristotle with his "unmoved mover" was raised in a religiously-dominated and, importantly, pre-scientific society and secondly, because you just confirmed that you were raised as a Christian. The fact that you left Christianity behind isn't relevant (but it is to your credit) - the creator idea would have been there from before you could even remember. I was more or less raised a Christian as well, abandoned it & all religion at 15 but it took until I was almost 30 to finally let go of any kind of creator idea and accept that no such thing was supported. So, sorry, but it really isn't plausible that you imagined a creator all by yourself with no input from anyone else.

At the risk of being categorized with Behe, the cell apppears too complex to come about by chance and further combine in a combination with other cells to produce a complex organism. I simply cannot see it coming about without some sort of intelligent design. Here's where I get in trouble because ID is associated with literal interpretation of the Bible.


If you don't want to be categorised with Behe, don't even invoke him. He's a biochemist (not a biologist, therefore his expertise is not relevant) a hardline Catholic shill and an ignorant, stubborn, dogmatic liar.

The fact that you can't conceive how cells could have developed and how they differentiate just shows you haven't read enough about them.

Try Evolution: The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins. There's a great bit in there describing how a single fertilised egg develops into the billions of cells of a foetus.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 07, 2010
If someone makes a negative claim, they are also saddled with the burden of proof as well. I'm told that I should accept I don't know as an answer, but those telling me that refuse to take this position, instead they say I can't be right since there is no evidence even though there is no negative evidence as well. As far as I can see, there is two possibilities. One, it came about by chance. Two, a creator was responsible.
We needn't prove there is no god and you need not prove there is a god. The problem only occurs when you try to fit god into the scientific explanation for either the Universe or life in it. At that point you are limited to what the evidence supports. Baseless speculation on possible means of fitting a god into the scientific description of how the Universe came into existence or life developed is the equivalent of devising a scenario where Hogwarts could exist and we wouldn't know about it. That's all you are doing.

And it is my opinion that saying it looks miraculous therefore only a god could have done it as Miller went to such an elaborate effort to do with his Anthropic Principle is also not valid scientific speculation. Because he is a respected biologist, and because there are plenty of theist scientists, Miller's been given more leeway within the scientific community for his hypothesis than the unsupported hypothesis deserves.

Adding hogworts and unicorns to the mix really makes no sense. BTW, I'm reading National Geographic and it gives the Indian rino the name Rinocerous Unicornius. See that, a unicorn really exists.

http://animaldiversity.ummz.um...ornis.html
Rinocerous Unicornius is a rhino, not a horse with a horn. The natural world prevails over the fictional one yet again. smilies/wink.gif
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written by latsot, August 08, 2010
wdunlap, your relationship with the truth is becoming increasingly and bewilderingly distant. The truth is just a dot from wherever it is you reside.

Latsot, what is a shame is you had a lot to offer, but then you got caught up in this "who shot John" name calling.


I don't get the reference so forgive me if I'm missing something obvious, but I'm not interested in determing who shot anyone, just in whether you actually have a single coherent thought in your head. Your continued blather as evident in this post makes my opinion on this superfluous.

As I've pointed out, the only names I've called you are the ones you brought upon yourself. Someone who claims that there must logically be a creator can't really be described as anything other than a creationist, can they? I'm at a loss as to why this might be name-calling. A spade's a spade. The same goes for lying. It's an ugly accusation and I wish I hadn't had to make it, but you lied, as is perfectly evident in this thread (even in the post I'm responding to right now, as I'll get to) so I'm forced to conclude that you're a liar. This seems a much worse charge than 'name-calling' (how old are you, eight?) and yet you haven't done a single thing to deny that you lied. You haven't demonstrated that I'm wrong in suggesting that you deliberately told mis-truths, again and again and again.

I tried to respond to you, but you continued in this destructive course, so I had to give up. I am here to have a civil discussion. Time is limited and wasting it trying to defend myself against your name calling didn't seem very productive.


I can see how it might not seem very productive to you. Personally, I think trying to get at the truth is never effort wasted.

Your insisting that I use Wickepedia as a resource is pointless since anyone like you or me can post stuff there without it being edited for correctness.


This is yet another lie. If you're going to make silly accusations like this, you might want to remember that our whole conversation is right here on the web for everyone to read. I didn't say any such thing, you know I didn't say any such thing and everyone on the planet can see that i didn't say any such thing.

What I said was that you used wikipedia to make a point, but you deliberately ignored quite a lot of information in that very same article that contradicted the point you made. I really don't understand why you respond to accusations of lying by lying.

But you've decided we're done so you won't have to answer any of those questions or apologise for lying about what I said. How very convenient. Even if it were true that I called you names (and really, if you can type then you're old enough to get over a stranger calling you a name) then I never lied about what you said or misrepresented your views. You did this to me and some others repeatedly and without shame.
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written by latsot, August 08, 2010
oh WDUNLAP. How many lies can you fit into a single forum thread?

I don't know how many times I had to repeat that with gravitational force and/or strong nuclear force being too weak or too strong, no life can exist. But still I would get back the answer that life would exist in another form


I certainly never made any such reply. I don't remember anyone else saying it either, although it's not as foolish a response as you seem to think. My response, and Ginger's and perhaps a couple of other people's was that we know that the goldilocks zone isn't necessarily so unique or unlikely as some people like to claim. Twiddle one knob and the universe breaks. Twiddle several knobs at once and we just don't know. And the anthropic principle really, really doesn't mean what you think it means.
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written by latsot, August 08, 2010
I am unwilling to pretend I don't know something I do know.


Ginger wins 1.75 internets.
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written by latsot, August 08, 2010
Mandrellian:

But you did kill that guy, right? He sounds like he fucking deserved it.
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written by latsot, August 08, 2010
wdidiot:
If someone makes a negative claim, they are also saddled with the burden of proof as well.


You're right. I don't claim that your mother was a magician and your father was am octopus she created from the firmament. Now wait a minute....Am I claiming this or not claiming it or not not claiming it? Or not not not claiming I'n not claiming it? Is this any different from not not not not claiming that same thing?

It seems that the truth of the universe depends on the exact forms specific people use at specific times to describe vaguely related things.
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written by wdunlap, August 08, 2010
In response to Mandrellian,

(Atheism is NOT, repeat, NOT a claim! It is a response to the specific theistic claim that gods exist. It is a negative response, true, but it's not a claim to knowledge.)

We had this very discussion on the friendly atheist blog. I got similar comments like yours, though yours is the best I've heard so far. Your claim that it is not a claim to knowledge, on the surface, seems plausible until you look at the dictionary definition. Here the definition for atheism from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: 1a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods. b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods. Atheist: One that disbelieves or denies the existence of Gods or gods.

I have had some tell me that the definition isn't considered right by atheists, but if everyone has their own definition, who would be right. That is why we have dictionaries so that everyone is looking at the exact same definition. A theist is the opposite belief. There is two possibilities, 1. it all started by chance, or 2. a creator did it. Doesn't matter which side you take. The fact is there is no evidence one way or the other. Therefore, if you take the stance that a God or gods exist, you are doing it on FAITH. On the other hand, if you take the position that a God or gods does not exist, you are also basing it on FAITH. Note that the definition for Atheist does not state that it is in oposition to theism. It is its own stand alone doctrine. I, on the other hand, am an agnostic which means I admit I do not know the answer. However, I have leanings towards a creator. I am willing to bet that most atheists are not really atheists but agnostics with leanings towards atheism. I believe it was you and/or Ginger who stated that it is best to say you do not know. That is agnosticism.

(and do some reading on evidence, logic, truth claims etc. )

Don't you see? I have been doing a lot of reading, but have yet to come up with answers to my questions which I have brought up here.

(you seem to want to redefine commonly accepted concepts like "burden of proof" and "evidence" to suit what you already think is true.)

Not sure what you are referring to here. I have admitted to not having evidence of a creator, but have presented reason why I think one could be necessary. I am told it can't be because I do not have evidence and am told I should simply say I do not know. I come back and restate that I do not have evidence and that is why I am an agnostic, but that, until science can come up with a natural explaination, I feel that my reasoning has provided some viable reasons why a creator might be necessary. And around and around we go. It can be tough, but interesting, being in the middle like I am because I get the same grief from the Christian apologists when I try to argue why the Bible is man-made and that Jesus is a failed prophet. But, unlike the Atheists, they have an additional "weapon", and that is that my soul could be in danger of going to Hell, which has no effect on me since I am that certain of being right. However, when it comes to arguing why a creator might be necessary, I admit to being anything but certain.

(I'm glad you've got something out of this discussion (I have as well - sharper rhetorical claws!). )

Good, I'm glad you got to sharpen your rhetorical claws. I think I have too, but no longer feel the need, at least for now, to debate a creator since I have gotten some very good arguments against one here.

( You're clearly not a Genesis-believing creationist fool)

THANK YOU!!!! I'm glad I finally got that across to someone here. Believe me, I cheer all the way everytime the Creationists fail in their try to submit there religion as an alternative science. And it sickens me when religions use their religious texts as reason to discriminate against homosexual. Still, you insist that my belief that a creator is possible is a myth. Once again I must insist that there are two possibilities, and calling my belief, that a creator might be a possibility, a myth is an opinion with no evidence behind it and though man's poor attempts to describe a creator have been proven wrong, that is only evidence that man has no idea what a creator would be like if it did exist. It is not evidence that a creator does not exist.
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written by wdunlap, August 08, 2010
(Well, actually all he presents is a conviction everything seems so miraculous to him that he cannot imagine any explanation except a god did it. )

I admit that Miller does have an axe to grind which is his belief in Christianity. That I can argue against. However, I find the Anthropic Principle to be an excellent argument, and, therefore, is not weakened by his Christian beliefs which I do not agree with.
Yes, according to the yin and yang argument, Miller's argument may be an assertion, but, considering that there is no evidence one way or the other, assertion is all he has and it is a good one.

(This is akin to saying, erasing our memory is a 'possible reason' Hogwarts might exist and we would not know about it.)

I repeat, there are two, only two possibilies, everything started by chance or a creator did it. Hogwarts and erased memory are not one of the possibilities. Bringing them up only detracts from the discussion at hand.
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written by wdunlap, August 08, 2010
(First, because even Aristotle with his "unmoved mover" was raised in a religiously-dominated and, importantly, pre-scientific society and secondly, because you just confirmed that you were raised as a Christian. The fact that you left Christianity behind isn't relevant (but it is to your credit) - the creator idea would have been there from before you could even remember. I was more or less raised a Christian as well, abandoned it & all religion at 15 but it took until I was almost 30 to finally let go of any kind of creator idea and accept that no such thing was supported. So, sorry, but it really isn't plausible that you imagined a creator all by yourself with no input from anyone else.)

OK, you may be right about Aristotle, so let's go back to me. After finding Christianity to be a false believe, I then set out to find evidence that things like life came about by chance without a creator. Instead, I came up with more questions than answers.

(If you don't want to be categorised with Behe, don't even invoke him. )

I don't have to bring Behe's name, all I have to do is state as one of my arguments that something appears to be to complex to have come about by chance, and Behe comes to mind. Funny, I found his Darwin's Black Box in the bargain bin for 49 cents and bought it to see what he had to say, but I found his writing style so boring that I couldn't get past the first dozen pages.

(The fact that you can't conceive how cells could have developed and how they differentiate just shows you haven't read enough about them.)

In this case, you may be correct. In a 60s Biology class cells were depicted as being very simple. Still, now we know they are extremely complex. I have a feeling that, in order to determine how they developed, would involve an advanced college text.

(Try Evolution: The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins. There's a great bit in there describing how a single fertilised egg develops into the billions of cells of a foetus.)

Thanks, I will definitely check it out. I just hope it is an improvement over his book, The Blind Watchman. He had a section in there with various designs and periodically, the best one would be selected. Well, when you are talking squigly lines, that smacks of intelligent selection. For me, that sort of argument for evolution just didn't hold together. I was very disappointed.
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written by wdunlap, August 08, 2010
Response to Mandrellian,

(We needn't prove there is no god and you need not prove there is a god. The problem only occurs when you try to fit god into the scientific explanation for either the Universe or life in it. At that point you are limited to what the evidence supports.)

OK, that is pretty much my point. I am not using science to prove a creator exists, I am not even trying to prove that a creator exists, just trying to show why one might be required.

(We needn't prove there is no god and you need not prove there is a god. The problem only occurs when you try to fit god into the scientific explanation for either the Universe or life in it. At that point you are limited to what the evidence supports.)

Again, I am not trying to fit god into a scientic explaination. Heck, science isn't even able to study the supernatural. As I said, I may not know the answer, but, by cracky, that isn't going to stop me from speculating why a creator might be required. Meanwhile, I am still looking to science for what ever answers I can glean from it.

(And it is my opinion that saying it looks miraculous therefore only a god could have done it as Miller went to such an elaborate effort to do with his Anthropic Principle is also not valid scientific speculation.)

Miller is not saying it looks miraculous. What he is saying is the odds against the 4 force constances is too astronomical for them all to end up in the extremely narrow ranges required for life of any kind to exist.

I know what a unicorn looks like. I just found it amusing that they named the Indian rhino after one.
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Logic
written by DataJack, August 08, 2010
wdunlap - I believe what was meant is that your grasp of logic and the components of an argument need to be improved. For example, there is no such thing as a negative burden of proof. You can NEVER prove a negative. You could say, "there are no unicorns", and it would be relatively safe to assume you are correct. To say, there are no unicorns in my yard, would be even safer. But it is never 100%. Therefore, if someone claims there are unicorns, it is completely 100% their responsibility to prove that unicorns exist, because you cannot disprove it. Things that have supporting evidence can be believed. Without any supporting evidence, there is NO REASON to believe something.

Another logical fallacy you have employed (again) is the false dichotomy. You said:
"Once again I must insist that there are two possibilities, and calling my belief, that a creator might be a possibility, a myth is an opinion with no evidence behind it and though man's poor attempts to describe a creator have been proven wrong, that is only evidence that man has no idea what a creator would be like if it did exist."

There are not two possibilities. There are infinite possibilities. There is one natural explanation, and an infinite number of supernatural explanations. As usual, the natural explanations still has some "we don't know...yet" sections in it. And that is fine.

A supernatural explanation that is JUST as supported as yours is this: a drunken god named Thor created the whole universe last Thursday. He put our memories in to make it seem like we are older than a few days. He gave everything the appearance of age. He even created memories of the Norse mythos, because he loves irony.

Do you see how that is 100% supported by evidence to the same extent that your belief is? It may sound silly and unlikely to you, but your unsupported belief in a creator being seems that way to us. Because there is no evidence to support it.

You also keep saying that you have provided "a reason to believe there could be a creator". You haven't, though. You have simply exercised the "god of the gaps" to resolve your argument from incredulity fallacy. You found some things you don't have an answer for ("what started everything?" "why do the physical laws allow for us to be here?") and decided that a made up explanation is in order (creator god) because we haven't yet found a natural explanation.

That is EXACTLY the same a when our primitive forerunners made up lightning gods and disease demons. Because they didn't know, they made it up.

The proper way to frame this is: Wow, we don't know why the physical laws are the way they are, or how it all started, so let's keep looking!

It is NEVER a good idea to entertain an idea as true if there is no evidence for it.
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written by mandrellian, August 08, 2010
I am not using science to prove a creator exists, I am not even trying to prove that a creator exists, just trying to show why one might be required.


Which you haven't even come close to doing, to be perfectly frank.

ALL scientific explanations up to this very second have invalidated the notion of a supernatural creator. All of them. Everything we used to think was gods, demons, spirits - ALL explained naturally. There's no reason to think that trend won't continue.

And I wasn't assuming you were trying to prove a creator exists - what I have been attempting to do was illustrate that, based on current knowledge, a supernatural creator simply isn't necessary to explain anything. But if you are going to invoke this creator as a possible explanation, you will need to provide more than "you can't rule it out" or "I can't imagine how [x] came about naturally". To paraphrase everyone else in this thread: you can't "rule out" the Earth being flat and resting on a huge turtle. But we do, based on evidence.

I'll take it further: without evidence that it's there (or even necessary), invoking this creator doesn't explain anything. As I said, it just begs more questions: who is this creator? Male, female, something else? Where is it from? Are there more than one? Is it "supernatural" or a product of advanced technology that looks that way? After all, Arthur C Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Your "supernatural" might be the creator-alien's "boring everyday crap that needs an upgrade," just as our boring everyday internet would seem like unimaginable sorcery to a medieval priest.

Heck, science isn't even able to study the supernatural.


Science - or anything else for that matter - isn't even able to point to the supernatural even existing, being necessary or even being plausible!

I'll go a step further here too: spirituality, deism, ID, creationism, religion - or any other supernatural belief - can't even provide a cohesive definition for the supernatural, just as the world's religions can't even agree on one internal interpretation of their scriptures, let alone agree with other religions. Without a consensus on what to look for, the search is pointless.
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written by wdunlap, August 08, 2010
In response to datajack

(there is no such thing as a negative burden of proof. You can NEVER prove a negative.)

I disagree. I can give you a great example. The Christian Apologist states "The Bible is the Word of God". I can state that the Bible is not the Word of God, and i can prove it. Someone can say that Harry is in love with Mary and I can respond that Harry is not in love with Mary because I am personal friends with Harry and he told that he hates her guts. So to state that you cannot prove a negative is false.

I will try to get to your other points but right now other more pressing things are getting in the way. Thanks for your comments.

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written by mandrellian, August 08, 2010
there is no such thing as a negative burden of proof. You can NEVER prove a negative.


I disagree. I can give you a great example. The Christian Apologist states "The Bible is the Word of God". I can state that the Bible is not the Word of God, and i can prove it.


Then please show your proof, and I'm sure the assembly will tell you if it constitutes proof of a negative.

Someone can say that Harry is in love with Mary and I can respond that Harry is not in love with Mary because I am personal friends with Harry and he told that he hates her guts. So to state that you cannot prove a negative is false.


No, what you're actually doing here is first not accepting the "love" claim and then making your own positive claim - "Harry hates Mary" - as opposed to the negative claim - "Harry does not love Mary" - and backing it up with evidence of Harry's emotions based on your relationship with him. It's a small semantic difference, but it means everything in this context. You can't prove with certainty that he doesn't love her, but you can support your claim that he hates her. If it's to your satisfaction that he does hate her, you can then logically infer he doesn't love her, but you can't actually prove it. Again, small semantic difference, big effect.

However, Harry could be lying to you! Even if he's your closest friend and you're totally convinced, he still might have personal reasons to lie to you or conceal his real feelings for Mary. So, again, you haven't proven anything because it's still possible that Harry does actually love Mary. Even if something's completely unlikely and totally implausible, it's still possible.

But you haven't proven the negative "Harry doesn't love Mary". In order to prove to 100% certainty that he didn't love Mary, you'd have to be able to read Harry's mind. What you can do, however, is claim positively that "Harry hates Mary" and use his words as your evidence.

It's worth noting that the words "positive" and "negative" in this context aren't being used for good/bad or love/hate kind of distinctions; that is, they aren't being used in their moral context or as value judgements. A positive claim is where you assert something IS and a negative claim is where you assert something IS NOT.

With Harry and Mary, the initial claim is "there IS LOVE". You don't accept that claim as supported, but without a claim to the contrary your only position can be "I do not believe that there IS LOVE." However, because you do have evidence to the contrary, you can make your own positive claim: "there IS hate". You cannot prove the negative claim "there IS NOT LOVE", because that requires absolute knowledge of Harry's mind (and what his definition of "love" is, among other things). You can, however, provide evidence for your claim "there IS HATE".

Of course, you can claim there IS NOT LOVE because you claim that there IS HATE, but obviously that first negative claim is dependent on your second positive claim that there IS HATE. If you didn't hear about the hate (or any other emotion that wasn't love, for that matter), you couldn't make the negative claim that there was NO LOVE - you could just say "I don't accept that there IS LOVE." If you didn't believe Harry loved Mary but Harry hadn't shared his feelings, you couldn't prove the claim that he didn't love her. You could disbelieve that he did, but without knowledge of his feelings, you could make no claims at all on the subject.

Again, if you could show evidence that he hated her, that would necessarily eliminate love as a possibilty! But again, you didn't prove the negative of NO LOVE - you supported the positive of HATE.

I've probably repeated myself a bit there, but I'd like to make sure the point gets made.




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Part 1
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 08, 2010
Mandrellian: Atheism is NOT, repeat, NOT a claim!

Some of us claim the evidence is overwhelmingly against gods being more than myth. But, "gods are mythical beings", is the actual claim. Atheism, of course, just means no belief in a god.

wdunlap: I have been doing a lot of reading, but have yet to come up with answers to my questions which I have brought up here.

Again, that is not evidence those answers don't exist, only that you haven't read the right sources.

wdunlap: until science can come up with a natural explaination, I feel that my reasoning has provided some viable reasons why a creator might be necessary.

God of the gap hypotheses are not based on any evidence. You keep repeating the error, "might be necessary". To describe something as "necessary" you need to justify that statement. You haven't. Putting "might be" in front of the word, necessary, does not fix the problem of no evidence to justify the lack of any evidence a god is necessary in an explanation.

wdunlap: I find the Anthropic Principle to be an excellent argument,

It only appears that way to you because you are also trying to fit the evidence to the same conclusion. Those of us who are more objective, not being saddled with a conclusion we'd like to see, don't see that Miller's arguments have any substance.

Miller's whole premise is that if you changed reality we wouldn't be here. But we are here in this reality. So right there we know this Universe, with us in it, is possible. You can't know the odds of something happening without a denominator. What is Miller's denominator? He doesn't have one. There could be an infinite number of universes in which case one like this one could be common. And if there is only one universe and we are in it, so what? Roll the dice. If they come up double 6, double 6 exists. If they don't then it doesn't. What does that say about anything?

wdunlap: assertion is all he has and it is a good one.

A good assertion in a scientific hypothesis needs to be evidence supported.

wdunlap: I repeat, there are two, only two possibilies, everything started by chance or a creator did it. Hogwarts and erased memory are not one of the possibilities. Bringing them up only detracts from the discussion at hand.

I couldn't do better than DataJack did replying to this.

DataJack: There are not two possibilities. There are infinite possibilities. There is one natural explanation, and an infinite number of supernatural explanations. As usual, the natural explanations still has some "we don't know...yet" sections in it. And that is fine.
That Hogwarts could exist, whether you like it or not, is supported by the same amount of evidence as your god hypothesis. It would be good to review the rest of DataJack's answer if you still don't understand why I keep repeating the Hogwarts analogy.



wdunlap: I then set out to find evidence that things like life came about by chance without a creator. Instead, I came up with more questions than answers.

Hopefully, if anything has come of this exchange it is your awareness that your personal lack of scientific knowledge is not science's lack of knowledge.

wdunlap: I have a feeling that, in order to determine how they developed, would involve an advanced college text.

I do have an advanced science degree. But think about all the other scientific advances that are not so questioned by people. How much discussion goes on denying plate tectonics theory?

Evolution theory and global warming science have something in common. They are both the subject of multimillion dollar propaganda efforts to undermine the science.
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Part 2
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 08, 2010
wdunlap: Well, when you are talking squigly lines, that smacks of intelligent selection.

This smacks of you lacking knowledge of the basics of natural selection.

wdunlap: ...looks miraculous. What he is saying is the odds against the 4 force constances is too astronomical

Those two are the same thing: improbable odds & looks miraculous. Improbable odds would therefore require a magical god or miracle if you will. It's a failed hypothesis. If something happened that is pretty good evidence the odds were not improbable.

wdunlap: The Christian Apologist states "The Bible is the Word of God". I can state that the Bible is not the Word of God, and i can prove it.

Now that's interesting considering your other position on not being able to disprove any god exists.

As for proving negatives, that statement is misused. So is the word, proof, in science. We prove things in math. In science we find the best explanation for the evidence, A theory is not intended to be 'proved'. Even such things as, the 'fact' the Earth is not flat, in science are subject to change if new evidence is discovered. Until about half a century ago, it was a 'fact' the Earth's crust was solid. Now it is a fact the crust is made of moving plates. It's OK that we've changed our understanding of the Earth's crust. It is a testament to science, not against it.

Not being able to prove a negative only refers to questions where one cannot ever test all possibilities. As I've said at the beginning of this discussion, there is another approach to the god question. That is asking, what is the best explanation for the evidence rather than asking if gods exist. And clearly the best explanation for the overwhelming evidence is god beliefs came about as humans created mythical explanations for their Universe. We know that. We have thousands of examples including the Cargo Cults observed developing in modern historical times. And there is not one bit of evidence of any actual interactions between humans and real gods.

If it walks and talks like a myth....
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Clarifying "can't prove a negative"
written by Defaithed, August 08, 2010
wdunlap, that's an awesome abuse of the "cannot prove a negative" concept. Obviously, we can prove that there is not a real, physical hippo inside my wallet. But that's not what's meant by "can't prove a negative".

"You can't prove a negative" is not a trivial, silly claim of "You can't apply proof to any statement which contains a negative". Rather, it's a claim of the impossibility of proving non-existence of things defined as possessing the quality of unprovable non-existence – i.e., objects laden with slippery, proof-deflecting weasel words like "intangible", "undetectable", "divine", "spiritual", "outside the realm of science", "having no interaction with this universe", "beyond our comprehension", etc.

Such objects include, but are not limited to, transdimensional unicorns, ethereal Leprechauns, angels, shadow people, Thetans, Great Old Ones, wallet-dwelling hyperspace hippos, airborne pasta-based entities, Atlantean spirits, phallus-obsessed Yahwehs, Creators of the Universe, and the ghost or ghosts of Ed Sullivan.

To say that no one can prove the non-existence of those objects is completely true. To say that this lack of proof of their non-existence justifies acceptance of their existence is just dishonest, loony, or both.

That, in a nutshell, is my understanding of the "can't prove a negative" concept. Corrections are welcomed!
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written by William, August 09, 2010
Question:
What caused the Big Bang?


Answer:
wdunlap's unknown supernatural (and therefore not observable by the natural laws of science) knocked a single Higgs boson particle out of perfect universal alignment.

We could all speculate and say S/He then said, "Oops", but a good Bible-thumping Christian would have to say S/He "...saw that it was good."
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written by wdunlap, August 09, 2010
Response to Mandrellian,

(Then please show your proof)

I'm afraid that I would have to write a book, so here is something simpler. Remember the story of Jesus and Nicodemus where Nicodmeus is questioning Jesus' comment that you must be born again? Nicodemus is confused and asks if tht means he must climb back into his mother's womb. Here is my negative statement. This converstation never occurred. Here is my proof. The story was written in Greek. In Greek there is a word for reborn which has a double meaning. It can mean being born of your mother or it can mean born on high, which is what Jesus meant. However, Jesus and Nicodemus were not speaking in Greek, they were speaking in Aramaic, and in Aramaic, there are two separate words instead of one. Therefore, there is no way Nicodemus could have gotten confussed. Thus, this converstation never happened.

Let me alter my other example. I am with some friends and one of them tells me that he heard that my sister Mary is dating Bill. However, I happen to know she isn't dating anyone because she told me so plus she is working 12 hours per day and has had no time for dating. Therefore I respond with the negative statement, Mary is not dating Bill, and I can prove it.

Another example. Long ago, Eygptians believed that the sun going across the sky was a flaming chariot drawn by a god. Science has proven that the earth is turning on its axis and that the sun is a star. Therefore, the negative statement, the object lighting the earth by day which goes away at night is not caused by a god dragging a chariot across the sky and then spending the night in Hades to explain the darkness.

Another example. The police arrest a man for sexually asaulting a woman, however the lab took a sample of the sperm and DNA and determined it didn't belong to the man the police arrested. Therefore, they issue the negative statement, this man did not sexually assault this woman. Later they find the man who did and his sperm and DNA matches. The negative statement has been completely proven.
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written by latsot, August 09, 2010
wdunlap:
I just hope it is an improvement over his book, The Blind Watchman. He had a section in there with various designs and periodically, the best one would be selected.


Yes he did. So did Darwin. And they both argued from the position of artificial selection to the position of natural selection. Both books are partly about that argument. Only an avowed creationist could take the masses and masses and masses of evidence that Darwin gave and Dawkins described and conclude that it doesn't work. Wdunlap, everyone now knows that you don't understand the slightest thing about evolution, regardless of what books you've read. But it's not so hard to understand. Do you still pretend that you didn't decide evolution was wrong in advance? We already know you're a liar, can you attempt a little integrity?
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in wdunlap's defense
written by William, August 09, 2010
latsot-
Wdunlap, everyone now knows that you don't understand the slightest thing about evolution...


In defense of wdunlap, he already said he accepts evolution, and fully understands the mechanisms of it.

We already know you're a liar...

Name calling aside, in which comment do you claim he intentionally lied?
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written by DataJack, August 09, 2010
wdunlap - Look, "can't prove a negative" is not something we came up with here during this tedious debate; it is one of the basic assumptions of logic. It has nothing to do with your sister's work schedule, and everything to do with how critical thinking works.

If you posit something exists, you must provide evidence to support that it does. It is not up to your audience to provide evidence that it doesn't. Can't you see how absurd that would get?

Any assertion must have evidence or there is no reason to accept it. It is that simple. Making up an undetectable being who lives in an undetectable place and can do magical things - undetectably - is sloppy, lazy thinking, nothing more.

If you want to believe is unsupportable supernatural entities, that's fine. But don't say (or think) that you have used logic to "show how such a being might be required". You haven't. You have only demonstrated your own inability to understand science and logic.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 09, 2010
Defaithed: It's a claim of the impossibility of proving non-existence of things defined as possessing the quality of unprovable non-existence – i.e., objects laden with slippery, proof-deflecting weasel words like "intangible", "undetectable", "divine", "spiritual", "outside the realm of science", "having no interaction with this universe", "beyond our comprehension", etc.
That's not my interpretation of the concept. ET life is tangible. We can prove it exists if we find it. Given the size of the Universe and the fact there is life in at least one place in the Universe it is likely there is ET life. But we could never prove there wasn't any ET life because we could never test every place in the Universe to rule it out.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 09, 2010
Wdunlap:in Aramaic, there are two separate words instead of one. Therefore, there is no way Nicodemus could have gotten confussed. Thus, this converstation never happened.
That's interesting.

But your "proved" negatives here are based on misunderstanding the scientific concept of being unable to prove the negative. You can word positive tests to make them seem like you are proving a negative. That is what you are doing. You are confusing semantics with scientific concepts. Proving something did happen or did not happen are both testable claims. But I cannot prove there is no life in the Universe because I cannot test every location in the Universe. While negative adjectives are used in both problems, only one refers to the scientific concept of being unable to prove a negative.
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written by Defaithed, August 09, 2010
@Skeptic Ginger: Yes, "testing is a physical impossibility" is another, separate reason why non-existence of something may not be provable. It's not a weaselly one, either; as you say, it would seem to be a valid consideration in some cases.

But my basic point about belief should still hold. That is: Whether we say "Vishnu is magically intangible, and thus no one can prove he doesn't exist", or whether we say "Vishnu is tangible and real but so far away he's physically impossible to test for, and thus no one can prove he doesn't exist"... either way, adding "... and that's justification for assuming he exists!" would be bad thinking.

Now, things get a little more complex when we change away from "its non-existence isn't proven, so I'll assume it exists", and instead to "its non-existence isn't proven, so I'll assume it might exist". IMO, that's not an unreasonable stance with respect to ETs, per your example. After all, we have absolute proof of planet-bound physical life in the universe – millions of species, right here on Earth. Other planet-bound physical life, elsewhere, isn't a concept totally without reality-based merit.

It's tempting to apply the same "might exist" to a vaguely-defined Creator spirit-being, too. But we have no proof yet of any such being, or anything vaguely similar to such a class of being; there's also absolutely nothing in our knowledge of the universe that would suggest how such a thing could live or think or have come into being. All of which doesn't prove that such a spirit-thing can't or doesn't exist, but it does make the concept appear much less valid than that of ETs!

(Sorry, that's not particularly directed at you, nor should it be something new to anyone here. Just talking to myself a bit.)
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 09, 2010
@Defaithed
This discussion is already too long to get into that discussion. Briefly, however, since part of the problem I have with the OP is the manufacturing of a separate category for things outside the realm of science (not including outside the Universe or before the Big Bang which are different concepts from fiction). I find moving the god or supernatural question off the playing field is contrived and meaningless. Do you move homeopathy off the playing field then and claim it works but the tests won't show it? Yes, "it works" is a claim, but so is, "it exists".

If a thing, be it a god or a ghost, is outside the realm of scientific investigation, then it isn't relevant either. Hogwarts is outside the realm of science. Are we wasting our time seriously discussing the 'special category' of outside the realm of science that Hogwarts exists in? Or do we assess the evidence and rightly conclude that Hogwarts is a fictional place?
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written by William, August 09, 2010
The claim "it exists" is different than the claim "it might exist". And once you move something to a belief system, it is not up to anyone to prove the belief. I can, however, justify my belief within my belief system. If anything there is proved NOT true (or at the very least counter-provable) I can change what I believe (I'm not above growing in faith).

Homeopathy is counter-provable. The existence of one or more deities is not.
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written by mandrellian, August 09, 2010
William said:
I can, however, justify my belief within my belief system.


Well, of course you can. That's self-evident. You can justify Wolverine being nigh-invincible and Charles Xavier being psychic within the Marvel universe because such things are possible there, just as you can justify Jesus being himself, his father and someone else in the Bible's universe. Once you set up your own universe you can make your own rules - and change them - until the cows come home. Of course, whether someone's beliefs (and their belief system) are actually consistent with reality (as we know it) is a different sandwich altogether.



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written by mandrellian, August 09, 2010
*sigh*

WD: said:
I'm afraid that I would have to write a book, so here is something simpler. Remember the story of Jesus and Nicodemus where Nicodmeus is questioning Jesus' comment that you must be born again? Nicodemus is confused and asks if tht means he must climb back into his mother's womb. Here is my negative statement. This converstation never occurred. Here is my proof. The story was written in Greek. In Greek there is a word for reborn which has a double meaning. It can mean being born of your mother or it can mean born on high, which is what Jesus meant. However, Jesus and Nicodemus were not speaking in Greek, they were speaking in Aramaic, and in Aramaic, there are two separate words instead of one. Therefore, there is no way Nicodemus could have gotten confussed. Thus, this converstation never happened.


False. This conversation may have happened as described and had the same result - just with slightly different words. Considering this was written in Greek for a Greek-speaking audience, it is highly likely the word "reborn" was the Greek equivalent for whatever the Aramaic term for "born again" is. You haven't proven anything. Just because Greek and Aramaic don't have exact equivalents for every single word (no two languages do!) that is no reason to think you've proven this chat never happened.

I am with some friends and one of them tells me that he heard that my sister Mary is dating Bill. However, I happen to know she isn't dating anyone because she told me so plus she is working 12 hours per day and has had no time for dating. Therefore I respond with the negative statement, Mary is not dating Bill, and I can prove it.


You are (again!) not accepting the first positive claim (Mary is with Bill), making your own positive claim (Mary says she's single and too busy) and working backwards to justify your "proof of a negative" (Mary isn't dating anyone). Just like Harry, she could be lying to you. You can't prove she's not dating, but you can (a) not accept the claim she is dating and (b) claim she's single and back it up!

Eygptians believed that the sun going across the sky was a flaming chariot drawn by a god. Science has proven that the earth is turning on its axis and that the sun is a star. Therefore, the negative statement, the object lighting the earth by day which goes away at night is not caused by a god dragging a chariot across the sky and then spending the night in Hades to explain the darkness.


Yet again, it's not proven that the sun is not the chariot of Ra (because it's possible that a powerful is fooling us all). However, it can be shown that the sun is a giant ball of incandescent plasma. This well-supported positive claim invalidates the positive Ra claim.

Another example. The police arrest a man for sexually asaulting a woman, however the lab took a sample of the sperm and DNA and determined it didn't belong to the man the police arrested. Therefore, they issue the negative statement, this man did not sexually assault this woman. Later they find the man who did and his sperm and DNA matches. The negative statement has been completely proven.


You are missing the point. The first man was set free because the police didn't meet their burden of proof. They made the positive claim that he assaulted a woman; they couldn't provide evidence and they had to abandon their claim. They did not prove he didn't do it, all they had to do was state they couldn't prove that he did do it! Their is no proofof the negative - he still might have assaulted that woman, but left no evidence! However, the police have no choice but to release him because they couldn't support their claim. Have you never watched a cop show? Cops have to provide evidence for guilt; all lawyers have to do is cast doubt on the evidence. They don't have to prove their client is not guilty; only that the cops don't have sufficient evidence. If the legal system was based on lawyers proving their client not guilty, our jails would be full of innocent people.

WD, you are missing the point; not just mine but everyone else's. Whoever said this debate is getting tedious was right on the money. Every one of your examples is wrong; the fact that you don't realise that (or don't want to) is making this not only tedious and exasperating.
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written by William, August 09, 2010
@mandrellian

I guess I didn't make my point, if--of all that I said--you chose to pull that one line out of context.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 09, 2010
written by William, August 09, 2010
The claim "it exists" is different than the claim "it might exist".
Are you trying to make the case that adding "might" somehow makes a claim not a claim?


written by William, August 09, 2010
And once you move something to a belief system, it is not up to anyone to prove the belief. I can, however, justify my belief within my belief system. If anything there is proved NOT true (or at the very least counter-provable) I can change what I believe (I'm not above growing in faith).
I don't get what this means. It sounds nonsensical to me.

written by William, August 09, 2010
Homeopathy is counter-provable. The existence of one or more deities is not.
You can ignore the facts but that doesn't make the facts go away. Science can address fiction. Just because someone creates in a book about the fictional world of Hogwarts, does not give that fictional world any special status. If a group of people get carried away with the Harry Potter fiction and start acting as if it is real (as people enamored with the vampire myths have done), that does not give Hogwarts special status outside the realm of the real Universe which science addresses.

Tell me how the fictional god myths differ from the fictional Harry Potter story.
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written by mandrellian, August 09, 2010
William said:
I guess I didn't make my point, if--of all that I said--you chose to pull that one line out of context.


The context in which I used it seemed to be in the same as the context in which you used it. Within any insular belief system, it's okay to believe what you choose as long as it's internally consistent, regardless of whether objective reality supports it.

And once you move something to a belief system, it is not up to anyone to prove the belief.


Just clarify if this is what it sounds like - justification for removing unsupportable beliefs form the realm of questioning. Because, taken as a whole -

And once you move something to a belief system, it is not up to anyone to prove the belief. I can, however, justify my belief within my belief system. If anything there is proved NOT true (or at the very least counter-provable) I can change what I believe (I'm not above growing in faith).


- that's what it seems to imply, especially due to the presence of the line "If anything there is proved NOT true" - which seems to invoke proof of a negative, which as has been discussed ad nauseam can't be done.

"Counter-provable" seems (to me) to mean exactly the same as "proving a negative", by the way. A claim is either supported by evidence or it's not (regardless of what belief system is employed) - a claim being "counter-provable" doesn't make sense. Yes, you can show that a claim is unsupported, but that isn't the same as proving the inverse of the claim. I'll admit that may be linguistic hair-splitting on my part, but discussions like the one(s) we've been having with wdunlap demand we get our terminology straight.

The phrase "growing in faith" doesn't seem to make sense either. Surely if you're adjusting your beliefs to adopt new information supported by evidence it's not a question of faith (commonly defined as "belief without evidence") but a question of beliefs based on evidence? I would've thought "growing in faith" meant adding more unsupported beliefs to the ones already held.

Of course if I've read you the wrong way, please correct me. Regardless of whether people share my point of view, I just like to know everyone means "X" when they say "X".
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written by mandrellian, August 09, 2010
Homeopathy is counter-provable.


Homeopathy isn't counter-provable, any more than Russell's claim of an orbiting teapot is counter-provable. However, the positive claim "homeopathy works as described" has been repeatedly falsified (not disproved) by scientific enquiry - but this is not the same as "counter-proof." Homeopaths claim an effect; the evidence does not support the claim; the claim is falsified.

For example, you can't counter-prove my claim that I'm a 54 year-old woman from Latvia with four kids and a Masters degree. What you can do is say "bollocks" and not accept it because I've shown no evidence. You could then in turn find evidence which may lead you to make a different claim regarding my identity. But that evidence, however convincing, could still be wrong because I am indeed a Latvian mother of four who's skilled at putting people off her scent.

The existence of one or more deities is not [counter-provable].


Eliminating the double-negative here, you're implying that the existence of one or more deities is provable. In theory, that's true. But obviously it hasn't happened yet.

There also seems to be an implication that it may be the job (or even desire) of non-believers in deities to disprove (counter-prove?) the existence of deities. Is that right?
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written by mandrellian, August 09, 2010
Tell me how the fictional god myths differ from the fictional Harry Potter story.


God myths make more money and worse movies.
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In defense of myself
written by William, August 10, 2010
Oooh, so many questions. Like I said, it is hard for me to make my point in quick text messages. Let me start by addressing the misunderstandings.

I do not claim that God (or any other god) exists. I simply believe it to be true, and no evidence presented forces me to believe otherwise. I can't prove it, but I am able (given a good direct Q&A session) to justify my belief within the context of my belief system--which is based on the Bible and my holistic interpretation of it and the corresponding science.

"Counter-provable" is where the evidence proves the claim false. So the claim that homeopathy works is counter-provable. A claim that deities exist is not counter-provable, as the discussion above shows (let me not rehash wdunlap's and SkepticGinger's comments). Saying that it is not counter-provable does not claim that it is provable--that would be bad logic. And I reiterate, I do not claim that deities exist. Neither does wdunlap.

@mandrellian - You are right, I can't counter-prove that you are a 54 year-old woman from Latvia with four kids and a Masters degree, because it is apparently true. But if something you claim was not true, I could counter-prove it by showing evidence where you are an age other than 54, a gender other than a woman, from a country other than Latvia, have less than 4 kids, or do not have a Master's degree. (Well, that last one may be hard to "prove", so I'd have to ask you to produce evidence of your claim, then contact the awarding school and verify it.)

I don't feel compelled to prove my belief. As I said, it is only a belief that I cannot prove, only justify.

I grow in faith when I learn new things. A scientific discovery, when it counter-proves some detail in my belief system (mainly in those connections between science and faith), will change my faith. A new explanation to a Biblical passage (perhaps I didn't fully understand the context the first time) will also change my faith. I always look for the science within the context to understand "what really happened".

A claim that something might be is still a claim, but it is not a claim that something is, so is proven differently. The assumption here is that the claim is not counter-provable in the first place. One cannot prove that both something is and something isn't. Might be is the case where something is has not been counter-proved, and our understanding still allows the possibility.

Allow me to share an aspect of my faith--something I've been avoiding since you all seem so quick to put down believers. I believe a man named (translated to English) Jesus lived in "the holy land" at the beginning of the first century. I believe he was "sent" by God to set "his people" on the right path. (I'll leave that all in quotes for now--those are different issues.) I believe that Jesus performed miracles. "Miracles" here is relative--Jesus had superior understanding of the laws of nature (after all, he was "of God"), and he used that to gain a following. He left this world with a simple message: Love others as I have loved you. He taught us how to treat other people, even those we would consider our enemy. It is by following his teachings that we are considered "good", and given a place in heaven. There is a lot more to say, but let me leave it at that. You can't prove any of that false (i.e, counter-prove).

In short, I believe that my belief system is consistent with reality. I make a conscious effort to keep it that way.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
In response to mandrellian,

(Yet again, it's not proven that the sun is not the chariot of Ra (because it's possible that a powerful is fooling us all). However, it can be shown that the sun is a giant ball of incandescent plasma. This well-supported positive claim invalidates the positive Ra claim.)

First of all, the sun is a ball of plasma, not a flaming chariot. Secondly, it only appears to be moving across the sky, but in reality, the earth is what is moving. Further, it does not go down to Hades, when it disappears, it is being seen by other parts of the globe. Therefore, I can safely make 3 negative statements with proof. 1. The sun is not a flaming chariout. 2. It is not moving around the earth because it is the earth that is turning,giving that false impression.

(
You are missing the point. The first man was set free because the police didn't meet their burden of proof. They made the positive claim that he assaulted a woman; they couldn't provide evidence and they had to abandon their claim. They did not prove he didn't do it, all they had to do was state they couldn't prove that he did do it! Their is no proofof the negative - he still might have assaulted that woman, but left no evidence! However, the police have no choice but to release him because they couldn't support their claim.)

I failed to mention that the first suspect was picked up near the place the rape took place along with 3 others. They were put into a lineup and the woman pointed out the one who did it, suspect number 4. Later the lab confirmed this through sperm and dna evidence. It was an open and shut case.

There the negative statement that suspect 1,2&3 did not rape the woman.

Funny, Atheists say a God or god doesn't exist. I say that they can't prove it, so their belief is based on faith. Your attempt to show that a negative can neve be proven, if right, would strengthen my case that the belief that a God or gods doesn't exist is based on faith.

The statement 'You CANNOT prove a negative' is clearly wrong because it is self defeating since it, itself is a negative statement. The following presentation on utube demonstrates this very convincingly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nKMApHgFSw
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
I missed one in my previous post. Third, it doesn't go down to Hades, It is simply shining on another part of the globe.

strike the following since it is clearly a negative: Funny, Atheists say a God or god doesn't exist. I say that they can't prove it, so their belief is based on faith. Your attempt to show that a negative can neve be proven, if right, would strengthen my case that the belief that a God or gods doesn't exist is based on faith.

The utube prentation clearly discredits the statement. You cannot prove a negative.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
presentation, not prentation.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
response to mandrellian,

Got another negative statement for you that can be proven. There are no Tyrannosaurus Rex's living today on the planet earth.
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Actually,
written by William, August 10, 2010
@wdunlap
There are no Tyrannosaurus Rex's living today on the planet earth


I'm going to have to break from you here. And use your own arguments against you. Such a statement cannot be proven. There is a possibility that 1 lives today, in an area we have not explored yet. Unlikely as it may be, the possibility still exists.
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Still Not Getting It
written by DataJack, August 10, 2010
wdunlap - You are still not getting it. "cannot prove a negative" is not a negative itself, just because it has the word "not" in it.

Unicorns exist. That is an positive assertion. It can be proven by presenting a unicorn for testing.
Unicorns don't exist. That is a negative assertion. It cannot be proven, because you cannot ever rule out something's existence (or occurrence). Because you cannot check everywhere.

We cannot prove that unicorns don't exist. And yet nobody believes in them. Why is that? Because there is no evidence to support that they do exist. So it is highly likely they don't. But we cannot prove it. That's what "cannot prove a negative" means. Does it mean we have faith that unicorns don't exist, because we cannot prove that don't exist? Of course not, it just means there is no reason to believe they do exist.

Think about it. Your request that people "provide proof that a creator doesn't exist" is JUST as meaningful as a request from me that you "prove unicorns don't exist". Neither can be done, but that does not mean we should believe unicorns exist. This is a basic, common, logical fallacy. There is no faith involved whatsoever. It is simply pointless to believe in something when there is no evidence to support its existence.
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written by William, August 10, 2010
How do you know Unicorns don't exist?
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written by latsot, August 10, 2010
William:
In defense of wdunlap, he already said he accepts evolution, and fully understands the mechanisms of it.


Yes indeed and I say I fully understand the mechamisms of cold fusion. Because I say it, it's automatically true. This is the most childish defense of a position I've ever seen.

Name calling aside, in which comment do you claim he intentionally lied?


Read the thread. Just go right ahead and read it. It's all there. I've made it perfectly clear, made specific accusations, pointed to specific instances where wdunlap lied. I'm not going to pick through the entire thread for your personal benefit, but you yourself can do this! If you really wanted an answer to you own question, you'd have done it already. Do I really need to instruct you in how to search for text in a browser?
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Precisely
written by DataJack, August 10, 2010
William said:
"How do you know Unicorns don't exist?"

This is it, precisely. I cannot know unicorns don't exist, because one cannot prove a negative! I do not believe unicorns exist because either:
1) I have faith they don't exist;
2) There is not one shred of evidence they DO exist.

The answer, of course, is (2). This very same construct can be set up for deities:

I do not believe deities exist because either:
1) I have faith they don't exist;
2) There is not one shred of evidence they DO exist.

Again, the answer is (2), and (2) alone. I don not "have faith there is no gods". Rather, I believe there are no gods because there is not one shred of evidence supporting their existence.

I am fine with people who believe in gods on faith alone. But don't then accuse those of us that don't believe in gods that we too, are taking a a position based on faith. We aren't; we are basing lack of belief on evidence, just like everything else we examine.
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Reply to William
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
I do not claim that God (or any other god) exists. I simply believe it to be true,

I've heard this cop out croc many times. The minute you tell me you believe [x], you've made a claim. If you want to be pedantic about it, you've supposedly made a claim about your 'belief' rather than a claim about [x]. But I can also be pedantic and say that if you believe [x] to be true but pretend you aren't really claiming [x] is true, then you are essentially saying you believe in [x] knowing [x] it is a fictional thing.

[I am able] to justify my belief within the context of my belief system

By that nonsensical standard, God speaks to schizophrenics all the time. I don't have to be inside a mentally ill's person's head to be confident God is not the source of their belief.

"Counter-provable" is where the evidence proves the claim false. So the claim that homeopathy works is counter-provable.

In other words you're making up your own language here. This is where the nuances of the scientific process are lost in translation and when the scientific community bases arguments on said nuanced concepts, the lay public doesn't get it, and we lose hearts and minds to woo promoters.

Nuance: Math deals in proofs. Science deals in the best explanations for the evidence.

Nuance: Falsifiability is a statement about testing hypotheses. Some in the scientific community have expanded this to categorize untestable claims as being outside the realm of science. Truly untestable claims are such things as outside the Universe and before the Big Bang. At the current time we have no means of making any observations of those two things. They are legitimately untestable.

It's not valid, however, to place any and every fiction a human can think up into the category of untestable. By doing so, the scientific community has done a disservice to the promotion of rational thinking. We've given people a pass on irrational beliefs and passed up the opportunity to refine the lay public's knowledge about hypothesis testing.

Yes, fictional assertions are not falsifiable. I have no objection to that part of the problem of untestable claims. What I object to is then making the mistake of saying, therefore there is no way to investigate said fiction via the scientific process. There is more than one way to investigate a fictional claim. Testing the hypothesis that the fictional belief is true is not the only way.

Putting those two nuances together one finds one can investigate the origin of god beliefs. The evidence is overwhelming that all gods we've investigated in human history to the present have been fictional beings. There is no evidence any gods were/are real. Therefore, the best explanation for the evidence of gods is that they are all mythical.

Period, end of inquiry. Testing a fictional belief is not needed to draw the conclusion all gods are mythical beings.
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written by William, August 10, 2010
@DataJack
But don't then accuse those of us that don't believe in gods that we too, are taking a a position based on faith.


I do not believe I ever made that accusation.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Response to Williams,

(I'm going to have to break from you here. And use your own arguments against you. Such a statement cannot be proven. There is a possibility that 1 lives today, in an area we have not explored yet. Unlikely as it may be, the possibility still exists.)

I do believe you have been watching too many reruns of "The Lost World", or what ever the name of that old movie was called. This is the same argument put forward by creationists.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Response to datajack,

( You are still not getting it. "cannot prove a negative" is not a negative itself, just because it has the word "not" in it.)

I'm afraid it is you who are not getting it.

Saying you CAN prove a negative is a positive. Therefore, saying you CANNOT prove a negative is a negative.

(Think about it. Your request that people "provide proof that a creator doesn't exist" is JUST as meaningful as a request from me that you "prove unicorns don't exist". )

We are not discussing unicorns here. We are discussing 2 possibilities how things started. Either by chance or by a creator. So far, we have no evidence to show either one. If the Theist states there is a creator, he is basing it on faith. If the atheists states there is no creator, he is also basing it on faith alone since there is no evidence either way. Whether or not unicorns exist is a separate topic, which doesn't interest me a simply detracts from the above discussion.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
In response to Williams

(. But don't then accuse those of us that don't believe in gods that we too, are taking a a position based on faith.)

Why shouldn't I? Like me saying I believe a creator may be necessary, you don't have a shred of evidence that one doesn't exist.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
Wdunlap: We are not discussing unicorns here. We are discussing 2 possibilities how things started. Either by chance or by a creator.

Did you forget that DataJack challenged your position on this? IHis answer is worth repeating:

Data Jack: "Once again I must insist that there are two possibilities, and calling my belief, that a creator might be a possibility, a myth is an opinion with no evidence behind it and though man's poor attempts to describe a creator have been proven wrong, that is only evidence that man has no idea what a creator would be like if it did exist."
There are not two possibilities. There are infinite possibilities. There is one natural explanation, and an infinite number of supernatural explanations. As usual, the natural explanations still has some "we don't know...yet" sections in it. And that is fine.
A supernatural explanation that is JUST as supported as yours is this: a drunken god named Thor created the whole universe last Thursday. He put our memories in to make it seem like we are older than a few days. He gave everything the appearance of age. He even created memories of the Norse mythos, because he loves irony.
Do you see how that is 100% supported by evidence to the same extent that your belief is? It may sound silly and unlikely to you, but your unsupported belief in a creator being seems that way to us. Because there is no evidence to support it.
You also keep saying that you have provided "a reason to believe there could be a creator". You haven't, though. You have simply exercised the "god of the gaps" to resolve your argument from incredulity fallacy. You found some things you don't have an answer for ("what started everything?" "why do the physical laws allow for us to be here?") and decided that a made up explanation is in order (creator god) because we haven't yet found a natural explanation.
That is EXACTLY the same a when our primitive forerunners made up lightning gods and disease demons. Because they didn't know, they made it up.
The proper way to frame this is: Wow, we don't know why the physical laws are the way they are, or how it all started, so let's keep looking!
It is NEVER a good idea to entertain an idea as true if there is no evidence for it.


You have tried to make the case that 'no evidence for 'god'' is superior in some way to 'no evidence for Hogwarts or unicorns'. That's like saying god is less fictional than Harry Potter because you deem it so.
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written by William, August 10, 2010
We have evidence that Harry Potter is fictional.
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Can't prove a Negative, Redux.
written by DataJack, August 10, 2010
wdunlap, you are wrong. You have warped every definition you have been presented with in order to justify your inability to accept the rules of logic.

Just because a statement has a "not" in it does not make it a negative. We are talking about negative assertions here. "You can't prove a negative" is an axiom, not a negative assertion. "You can't support an argument without premises" is not a negative assertion, either, it is a statement of fact. That video you linked to is filled completely with logical failures.

Just because a phrase contains the word "not" does not make it a negative assertion. This is not my opinion vs. your opinion on what is a negative assertion. This is the way logic works and your failure to grasp it. It is not something I just came up with. It has been know to debaters for thousands of years, and is available to you in classrooms and online resources. "You cannot prove a negative" is not up for debate. It is a true statement, and it is a tool used by philosophers to properly debate.

"You can't prove a negative" is used to indicate you cannot test for an absence in every possible situation. That's it. Telling someone to prove that "Unicorns don't exist" is assigning them an impossible task, because they could not possibly look in all places at all times. But that still does not mean they might exist.

Words have meaning, and logic has rules. The following is wrong:

All balls are green.
My car is green
Therefore, my car is a ball.

It is not wrong because it sounds silly, or because "cars can't be balls". It is wrong because a violates a codified rule of logic.

You have been breaking those same rules repeatedly. Saying "either it was by chance or a creator done it" is wrong. It is a fallacy, a false dichotomy. We have known about false dichotomies since the Ancient Greeks. This is not me disagreeing with you - this is the rules of logic saying "you're doing it wrong".

Saying, "Chance could not have tuned the forces so perfectly, so it might mean a creator did it" is a fallacy. It is a argument from ignorance. That is not me calling you ignorant, it is me using a term coined by the ancient Greek philosophers to explain how you are coming to conclusion using faulty logic.

You have to learn how to properly present the supporting premises to your conclusions before you can ask they be accepted.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
From William:

Allow me to share an aspect of my faith--something I've been avoiding since you all seem so quick to put down believers. I believe a man named (translated to English) Jesus lived in "the holy land" at the beginning of the first century. I believe he was "sent" by God to set "his people" on the right path. (I'll leave that all in quotes for now--those are different issues.) I believe that Jesus performed miracles. "Miracles" here is relative--Jesus had superior understanding of the laws of nature (after all, he was "of God"), and he used that to gain a following. He left this world with a simple message: Love others as I have loved you. He taught us how to treat other people, even those we would consider our enemy. It is by following his teachings that we are considered "good", and given a place in heaven. There is a lot more to say, but let me leave it at that. You can't prove any of that false (i.e, counter-prove).

In short, I believe that my belief system is consistent with reality. I make a conscious effort to keep it that way.


Noone's putting down believers here, William (what thread have you been reading?). We're getting frustrated with wdunlap's increasing obtuseness and utter unwillingness to look simple facts in the face (hence my cessation of responses; one definition of insanty is "performing identical actions and expecting different results", which is what arguing with wdunlap amounts to).

However, I do take issue with the statement "You can't prove any of [my belief system] false." Of course I can't and that's been the point of half of this thread. I don't need and wouldn't want to. All I can logically do is say in response is, predictably I'm sure, "That belief system is unsupported by evidence" and not share it. What I do believe, however, amounts to this: people should strive to be good people regardless of who they think is watching.
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Evideince - I don't think that word means what you think it means.
written by DataJack, August 10, 2010
William said:
"We have evidence that Harry Potter is fictional."

No, we don't. Words have meaning. Evidence means "something used to demonstrate the truth of an assertion". What we have are fiction books with Harry Potter in them. That does not prove Harry Potter doesn't exist in the real freaking world, because you cannot prove a negative assertion! Evidence that he was written about in fiction is not evidence he was/is not real.

(Disclaimer: No, I don't think he's real, but it isn't because "we have evidence that Harry Potter is fictional". It is because there is no evidence that wizards are real, he is a wizard, therefore there is no evidence that he is real.)
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
*sigh* I should read all response before saying "I'm not playing anymore".

From the wisdom of wdunlap:

I failed to mention that the first suspect was picked up near the place the rape took place along with 3 others. They were put into a lineup and the woman pointed out the one who did it, suspect number 4. Later the lab confirmed this through sperm and dna evidence. It was an open and shut case.


Backpedal much? Thanks to your sloppy casework, detective, a rapist may have been set free.

Anyway, I don't buy it. You can't just invent new evidence after the fact and go "a-HA! You were WRONG!". Argue honestly or, frankly, sod off. I don't care if someone disagrees with me or even if they're a bit thick but seriously, if this goalpost-shfting bullsh-t is how you conduct a grownup discussion I'm not interested.

Funny, Atheists say a God or god doesn't exist. I say that they can't prove it, so their belief is based on faith. Your attempt to show that a negative can neve be proven, if right, would strengthen my case that the belief that a God or gods doesn't exist is based on faith.


Atheists do NOT make the claim that gods don't exist. I have not done so. Noone in this thread has done so. To present that as our position is a blatant lie or, if I'm being generous, astoundingly ignorant.

Atheists say "claims that gods exist are not supported by evidence." Nothing more. We make no claims on the existence of gods; we merely respond to them.

Honestly, it now seems as if you're just making up whatever crap you feel justifies your need to believe in ... whatever the hell it is you believe in. I've had fiery, expletive-ridden debates with honest-to-God Genesis-believing fundamentalist gay-hating six-day creationists that were less irritating (and more productive). You've shown you can't (or won't) read or comprehend other peoples' arguments or represent them honestly. You are very skilled at wasting peoples' time, though. Well done.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Response to Skeptic Ginger.

(You have tried to make the case that 'no evidence for 'god'' is superior in some way to 'no evidence for Hogwarts or unicorns'. That's like saying god is less fictional than Harry Potter because you deem it so.)

Williams beat me to the punch. We have evidence that Harry Potter is fiction. DataJack tries to suggest that a drunken Thor started everything yesterday and made us think we are old, but it makes more sense that a creator would be far beyond anything we could imagine. And you wonder why I forgot DataJack's comment? I stand by my statement that there are two and only two posibilies. 1. It happened by chance, which is as difficult for me to believe as it is for you to believe a creator or creators is responsible for the first cause. 2. A creator or creators was/were responsible.
You are so quick in your attempt to belittle the posibility of a creator by associating it with hogwarts from a fictious book, but you would have us believe that the universe and life came about by pure chance. So, we are dealing with two hard to believe options, but clearly one of them was the cause since we are here. Without evidence, neither one of us can show evidence one way or the other, but you still stubornly insist that a creator is unlikely though you haven't any evidence to back up your claim.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
William said:
In short, I believe that my belief system is consistent with reality.


...

1. Well, my beliefs about my beliefs being consistent with reality are consistent with reality, in that my belief system supports my belief that my beliefs are consistent with reality, which is internally consistent with my reality-consistent belief system (completely regardless of whether that belief system is actually consistent with reality; if my belief system states that my belief system is consistent with reality and my belief system is internally consistent, then my belief system is by definition consistent with reality) - therefore, Jesus

2. The Koran is the true word of Allah because it says so in the Koran, which was written by Allah, who is perfect and would not lie (which is true because it's in the Koran which was written by Allah!), hence the Koran must have been written by Allah because the Koran (written by Allah, who would not lie) says so - therefore, beards

Mr Spock, please report to the bridge; we have a logical emergency.

//

I make a conscious effort to keep it that way.


I don't doubt it.

It's one thing to say you take certain things on faith (which in and of itself is fine, on some level); it's another thing entirely to state that which you take on faith (i.e. believe without evidence) is consistent with reality. I'd much prefer if religious people kept faith as faith; if they did that, there'd be less of these threads and I'd be able to get some work done.

The problems arise as soon as a religious person says "that which I take on faith can be or IS supported by reality as it's currently understood", because it's a claim which can be tested; a statement which can be questioned and investigated for accuracy.

Certainly, noone can disprove the claim, but they are justified in asking for evidence. If none is forthcoming, it is justifiable to reject it. But some people think standards of evidence don't apply to religious beliefs or even to vague, noncommittal, fence-sitting, why-even-bother "there must be something" beliefs - hence, endless comment threads on the nature of evidence & belief and whether some guy named Harry raped a unicorn and got away with it.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Sorry DataJack, but you are off base here. Let me say it once more. The statement "You cannot prove a negative" is a negative statement. To say that cannot is not a negative is absurb. You are grasping at straws. It is what it is. Further, I hope you checked out the utube where the guy proves that you can prove a negative statement using math.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
From the font of genius:

Sorry DataJack, but you are off base here. Let me say it once more. The statement "You cannot prove a negative" is a negative statement. To say that cannot is not a negative is absurb. You are grasping at straws. It is what it is. Further, I hope you checked out the utube where the guy proves that you can prove a negative statement using math.


For some reason you refuse to understand the different uses of the words "negative" and "proof" in mathematics and logic (or even that there are differences) and with this one paragraph you've lost any shred of credibility you might have had in this thread.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Oh hooray!

DataJack tries to suggest that a drunken Thor started everything yesterday and made us think we are old, but it makes more sense that a creator would be far beyond anything we could imagine.


Fail.

DataJack was trying to make a point regarding possibility and, again, you missed it by a country mile.

I stand by my statement that there are two and only two posibilies. 1. It happened by chance, which is as difficult for me to believe as it is for you to believe a creator or creators is responsible for the first cause. 2. A creator or creators was/were responsible.


Failingest fail in all of Faildom.

WHY are there only two possibilities? DataJack thought of a third. Anyone can think of a possibility; what matters is probability and evidential support. Until you can explain WHY there MUST be ONLY TWO possibilities, you've surrendered. Until you can explain why "chance" MUST be one of them, you've no business talking with grownups. No decent scientist worth their degree is claiming pure chance in either cosmology or biology. You need to realise that if you want people to take you seriously (newsflash: they don't).

You've been told, repeatedly, that presenting only two possibilities is a false dichotomy (look it up!). There are in fact infinite possibilities, including the possibility that Thor has been messing our heads for a very short space of time. The number of probabilities, based on current knowledge, is considerably less than infinite and the probability that your precious fricking creator snapped his fingers 13 billion years ago and has been diddling, incompetently, with our DNA for the last 4.5 billion is a vanishingly small one, unsupported by anything except rank ignorance.

You are so quick in your attempt to belittle the posibility of a creator by associating it with hogwarts from a fictious book, but you would have us believe that the universe and life came about by pure chance. So, we are dealing with two hard to believe options, but clearly one of them was the cause since we are here. Without evidence, neither one of us can show evidence one way or the other, but you still stubornly insist that a creator is unlikely though you haven't any evidence to back up your claim.

You are starting to give me a rash. What people have been trying to pound through your skull is that the evidence for Hogwarts and Whatsisname the Creator is of the same quality.

Noone's claiming "THERE WAS NO CREATOR." What they are saying is "THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR A CREATOR." Practically everyone in this thread has said "Oh, yes, there might have been a creator" but they've all come back and said "But there's no evidence for one, so why believe something with no evidence?"

It's difficult to comprehened why you haven't understood the difference between "there was not X" and "there is no evidence for X" over the course of however many days this ridiculous thread has been plodding along. The ONLY TWO POSSIBILITIES are (1) you're a troll who just likes pushing peoples' buttons or (2) you're thicker than a short wet plank. Clearly, using your own "logic", there's no room for a third alternative.


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"...pantheon of skeptics."
written by gfpatterson, August 10, 2010
Nicely done, DJ smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
reponse to mandrellian,

SIGH!!!!

(Backpedal much? Thanks to your sloppy casework, detective, a rapist may have been set free.)

The important thing is that I have proven a negative. I was merely providing additional info to counter your desperate attempt to discredit my presenting negatives statements that could be proven. I merely refined it till you could no longer think youhad proven me wrong.

(Atheists do NOT make the claim that gods don't exist. I have not done so. Noone in this thread has done so. To present that as our position is a blatant lie or, if I'm being generous, astoundingly ignorant.)

No, you don't come out and say that a god doesn't exist, but you go out of your way to indicate such by stating all god beliefs have been disproven, and if that doesn't work, then try to associate the belief that a creator could exist with unicorns, etc. Also, you admit to being an atheist, one who believes a God or gods does not exist. So, though you may not come out directly and say you do not believe in a God or gods, it is pretty obviously that you do. Me, on the other hand have stated repeatedly, that, though I believe that a creator may be necessary, I am an agnostic with theistic leanings.

(Honestly, it now seems as if you're just making up whatever crap you feel justifies your need to believe in ... whatever the hell it is you believe in. I've had fiery, expletive-ridden debates with honest-to-God Genesis-believing fundamentalist gay-hating six-day creationists that were less irritating (and more productive).)

You are now spouting complete B.S. You must be taking lessons from your immature friend, Latsot who needs to grow up. You sound just like some of the creationists and Christian apologists I debated with. I cannot believe the complete B.S. you came out with in your lame attempt to discredit my negative statements with proofs. I have seen posters who hate to lose an argument, though they are completely off base, but you take the cake. I also provided a utube presentation that showed negative statements with proofs by using math. He even showed your statement to be nonsense since "You can't prove a negative statement" is in itself a negative. And to make the statement that I wasted people's time takes a lot of gall.

(. I've had fiery, expletive-ridden debates with honest-to-God Genesis-believing fundamentalist gay-hating six-day creationists that were less irritating (and more productive).)

That is because they were a whole lot easier to debate. In my case you have never come across the likes of me and you cannot run all over me like you can them. I have repeately explained, that yes I don't know and that I can except your arguments as a possible alternative, but that I have reasonings why a creator might be necessary, admitedly without evidence. Unfortunately, we ended up going around in circles. I finally said good bye since we can only say the same thing so many times, but I kept getting drawn back into the fray. The discussion about not being able to prove a negative was something different, but, like I said, you desperately attempted to discredit my negative statements with proof. And you say you are frustrated? What about me? Or don't I count?
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Hey, I missed that!

Pantheon of skeptics - best collective noun ever smilies/cheesy.gif
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Absurd
written by DataJack, August 10, 2010
"Sorry DataJack, but you are off base here. Let me say it once more. The statement "You cannot prove a negative" is a negative statement. To say that cannot is not a negative is absurb. You are grasping at straws. It is what it is. Further, I hope you checked out the utube where the guy proves that you can prove a negative statement using math."

That video was absurd. It was filled with misusing words and outright fallacies. The video "proved" the author knew as little about math as he does about logic. A "not equal to" sign in math is not a negative claim, it is a positive claim.

Once more: Words have meaning. Evidence, positive, negative, assertion, claim, premise, conclusion, they all have specific meanings.

"One cannot prove a negative claim" is a cold hard fact.

If the best you can say about your belief system is that we can't disprove it, then you kind of already have. According to the rules of logic, there is no reason to believe in something without evidence for it. If you have no evidence for it, and I have no evidence against it, you lose. You can cry all you want about "you don't have evidence my pet god doesn't exists!", but we don't have to, and logically can't.

False Dichotomy. Look it up. Argument from incredulity. Look it up. You are hiding behind each of these, and don't realize it.

You stated:
"DataJack tries to suggest that a drunken Thor started everything yesterday and made us think we are old, but it makes more sense that a creator would be far beyond anything we could imagine."

What makes more sense to you has NOTHING to do with the truth. We have no idea what the attributes of a "creator" would be. Basing its attributes on what makes sense to you seems like a really bad idea (also, a logical fallacy). Drunk Thor or supernatural, undetectable, universe creating, creator being that likes to hide make the exact same amount of sense (none) and have the exact same amount of evidence (none). Oh, and by the way, you CANNOT prove drunk Thor didn't create the universe last Thursday (not yesterday, heretic!) so I guess that is proof that he did. Wait, I guess they each made 1/2 the universe. Oh, and don't forget about the FSM. So I guess they each made a third. Wait don't forget about...

Good thing heaven is roomy.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Good thing heaven is roomy.


Not according to the Jehovah's Witnesses - the One True Religion(TM)! Apparently only 144,000 elites get to go to Heaven and everyone else gets to sleep until they're resurrected after the Millennium. Or something.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
response to Mandrellian,

(Noone's claiming "THERE WAS NO CREATOR." What they are saying is "THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR A CREATOR." Practically everyone in this thread has said "Oh, yes, there might have been a creator" but they've all come back and said "But there's no evidence for one, so why believe something with no evidence?")

No, there is no evidence for a creator. I agree. Also, there is no evidence for what the first cause was. Right or wrong, I have looked at possible reason why a creator might be necessary. That's it. That is essentially what I believe. I have heard good reasons why a creator might not be so. Maybe somehow science might be able to one day explain it, but I am not all that hopeful.

Anyway, I have overstayed my welcome. Thanks everyone for your comments. I will hang around an read various posts. I apologize if I am failing to comment back to other posts, but other priorites are calling. I may still comment from time to time, time permitting. Mandrellian sorry for the return of harsh word. I usually try to keep cool, but am only human afterall.

Hey everyone, take care and thanks for fielding comments from this agnositic with theistic leanings.

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written by Defaithed, August 10, 2010
@mandrellian: Yep, the JWs will be the first to tell you that they're not going to heaven.

Been there, done that! The truth is, as far as unbelievable, proof-less religious promises go, the JWs offer what I call "the best reward package in the industry": eternal life on a paradise Earth, not a fuzzy, fluffy heaven. Fun idea, if nothing else.

Not wanting to get off topic here, so for the interested, here's my view of it all:
http://www.defaithed.com/blog/...n_industry
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Comment to Mandrellian,

(Not according to the Jehovah's Witnesses - the One True Religion(TM)! Apparently only 144,000 elites get to go to Heaven and everyone else gets to sleep until they're resurrected after the Millennium. Or something.)

I said I wasn't going to comment for a while, but this is too funny to let go. I've always thought it hilarious when the Jehovah Witnesses quoted this number of the heavenly elite which they got from Revelations. That worked great when they were a very small group, but when their numbers increased byond 144,000, they had to scramble for reason why 144,000 was no longer correct. Ya gotta luv it.
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JWs
written by Defaithed, August 10, 2010
@wdunlap : Respectfully, I think you were told wrong on that point, or are confusing the JWs with someone else. They absolutely do claim that only 144,000 are going to heaven, and that your average JW is not included in that! They believe they're going to live forever on Earth, not in heaven.

So I don't believe there's any serious JW revisionism in that basic belief about who goes to heaven. Rather, where they've had to scramble to revise things is regarding when all this will happen. Their prophesied Armageddon stubbornly refuses to arrive.

Interesting stuff, though perhaps a topic best placed in its own thread somewhere.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Well, the JWs certainly aren't the only ones who've had to adjust their belief system to be consistent with reality. But hey - it's their own fault for being so successful with there "wake people up on Saturday morning and wave pamphlets at them" policy.

Anyway & tangentially, I made a quick post about this discussion at my own blurg a few days back: http://generalsystemsvehicle.blogspot.com. Have a look around (I recommend this one as well). I'll be doing the same with material from the assembled participants. See you all somewhere else on the interblag.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
^

"There" should read "their" Edit button please Mr Randi! smilies/shocked.gif
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
^
Bah!
Edit fail. Reverse the above correction smilies/grin.gif
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I have more evidence than you have
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
written by William, August 10, 2010
We have evidence that Harry Potter is fictional.
I assure you that without a doubt, I have more volumes of evidence that gods are fictional than you have volumes of Harry Potter.
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Gods are no more than myths, that is what the evidence supports.
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Atheists do NOT make the claim that gods don't exist. I have not done so. Noone in this thread has done so.
Actually, mandre, I do make this claim and I am an atheist. I recognize the popular opinion is one cannot disprove gods exist therefore we should stop there. I say, that is the wrong approach. After careful contemplation of "what's wrong with this picture", I have determined what is wrong with this picture. It follows the erroneous approach to the scientific process of trying to fit the evidence to the conclusion, gods exist, instead of following the evidence to its natural conclusion, god beliefs are based on fictional creations of mythical gods. Why can't I say what is the obvious elephant in the room?

Answer: there is no reason I cannot draw the conclusion gods are mythical beings and nothing more. The obvious elephant in the room here is, we have OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE god beliefs are the result of mythical fabrications.

Who is arguing, we cannot conclude Harry Potter is a fictional being because we have no way of testing the hypothesis HP is real?
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
We have evidence that Harry Potter is fiction. DataJack tries to suggest that a drunken Thor started everything yesterday and made us think we are old, but it makes more sense blah blah blah….
Your entire argument is that you like a particular conclusion. "Makes more sense" to you is not a logical argument nor is it evidence. It makes more sense to me gods are fictional beings, AND, that is what the evidence also supports!

You are so quick in your attempt to belittle the posibility of a creator by associating it with hogwarts from a fictious book, but you would have us believe that the universe and life came about by pure chance. So, we are dealing with two hard to believe options, but clearly one of them was the cause since we are here. Without evidence, neither one of us can show evidence one way or the other, but you still stubornly insist that a creator is unlikely though you haven't any evidence to back up your claim.
First, your assumption, I came to this conclusion "quickly", is totality false.

Second, I have stated what my evidence is multiple times now, yet you continue to repeat the falsehood, I have no evidence. That denial on your part is very telling.

I think I'll stop there for simplicity's sake in the hopes it make s my point easier to quit ignoring.
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written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Sorry DataJack, but you are off base here. Let me say it once more. The statement "You cannot prove a negative" is a negative statement. To say that cannot is not a negative is absurb. You are grasping at straws. It is what it is. Further, I hope you checked out the utube where the guy proves that you can prove a negative statement using math.
I haven't voted down posts I simply disagreed with here. But I did vote this post down. It reflects your total lack of understanding of scientific process principles.

You are arguing some dictionary semantics of what a negative is, as if the scientific process was secondary to the broadest definition of the words used to describe the scientific process.

Try reading this Skeptic Wiki page on the topic before you make a fool of yourself putting your foot further inside your mouth:
http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/"You_Can't_Prove_a_Negative"
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errata
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
http://skepticwiki.org/index.p..._Negative"
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
response to defaithed,

http://jehovahs-witness.suite101.com/article.cfm/do_144000_people_go_to_heaven

According to this, it looks like you are right. Only 144,000 will make it to heaven, however, this will be the high leaders. the rest will be resurected here on earth. So, that is how they got around it. Very interesting.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Skeptic Ginger said:
we have OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE god beliefs are the result of mythical fabrications


Which is, to split a hair I've already split, not quite the same thing as proof that they don't exist. "Gods are myths" is in fact a positive claim which is supported by a ton of evidence. It's a claim I make (and can support) myself, but I don't claim there's proof that there are no gods. We can live our lives and study the universe as if there were no gods (because that's what the evidence so far says), but actual proof of no gods is not possible unless we literally search every corner of the universe and rule them out absolutely (which leaves us with the possibility that they don't live in our universe).

There is the possibility that a god or gods (or entities which could only be described as gods) exist, irrespective of how much evidence we may have for gods being mythological, regardless of how various religious texts differ greatly from reality, regardless of the likelihood of any one religion being "true" is and regardless of how miniscule the probability of their existence is. This is the core of this irritating exchange with wdunlap: he thinks that because gods can't be absolutely ruled out it's sufficient reason to think they're plausible or even likely, whereas several of us have said that you can't rule anything out absolutely and all you can do is go with evidence and probability.

Ditto a ghost making scratching noises in my attic: I have absolutely no reason to believe there's one there (and no reason to think human consciousness can survive physical death in the first place), but I can't prove it's not there. It might only appear when it knows everyone in the house is asleep; it might simply hide in the blind spots of my awareness. That might be true (but it most probably isn't); I wouldn't know (or be able to know) if the ghost behaved like that anyway; QED I can't prove the negative. I can claim & support that "ghosts are implausible" or "ghosts are fictional" though.

What I do have, on the other hand, is evidence that the noises being made in my attic are being made by possums: fur, poo, numerous possum sightings, prior knowledge of possum behaviour. That evidence precludes (or at the very least doesn't suggest) any ghost claim, eliminating the need for any sort of ghost "counter-proof".

Similarly, the evidence for the current state of the universe's function and arrangement doesn't suggest a creator. Without even introducing the evidence for gods being mythical, the data we have eliminates the need for supernatural intervention.
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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
Reply to Skeptic Ginger,

I have proven a negative plus the statement You Can't prove a Negative is a negative in itself. Who's the real fool here? BTW, your skepti wiki page came up blank.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
wdunlap, prove that I'm not sitting on a horse as I type this. You can't. I could be. It's plausible. Wireless is a wonderful thing.

I'll go one better: prove that I am actually NOT a horse!

You can suggest my hooves would be too big for a keyboard - but maybe I'm using voice recognition or dictating to a friend.

But horses can't speak! Or ... can they? Mr Ed could speak. Maybe I'm a super horse. Maybe I'm a HORSE GOD! Maybe horses have always been able to speak but haven't bothered because humans are all so dull (except Robert Redford).

But horses have small brains and can't communicate in a complex manner! Have you seen my head? It's big for a horse. Could be a coupla big cortexes in there ...

You can suggest any number of things here: you can go as far as saying that in the entirety of human history, NO ONE has ever met a horse that could speak or use the internet and that ALL the data we have on horses tells us that it's utterly implausible. Well, bollocks to that: I could be the first talking horse on the internet for all you know. If Whatisname The Hidden Creator likes dicking around with DNA, maybe I'm a totally awesome mutant horse.

...

Yes, I'm clearly being ridiculous. Yet, I foresee absolutely no proof forthcoming that I'm NOT A HORSE. You can present all the evidence you can find about humanity's understanding of horses and you can preclude the idea that I am a horse. You would likely be very convincing as well (I'd believe you), but you could NOT PROVE with certainty that I'm NOT A HORSE. The probability of me being a horse might be functionally zero, but if it's NOT zero, my horselessness is therefore NOT PROVEN.

Just as I can't prove your Creator doesn't exist, you can't prove I'm not a horse. However, in both cases, probability can be whittled down with evidence, observation and logic to a functional zero (or "about three-eigthths less than f--- all" as we say in Australia) and the probabilities of your creator existing and of me being a horse can be safely dismissed.








I need a sugar cube.

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written by wdunlap, August 10, 2010
(wdunlap: he thinks that because gods can't be absolutely ruled out it's sufficient reason to think they're plausible or even likely, whereas several of us have said that you can't rule )

Mandrellian, when you start quoting me, how about getting it right. I never said that because a god can't be ruled out that it is sufficient evidence of one. I gave reasons why a creator might be necessary, and that since you have no evidence, you cannot rule out a creator. That is a huge difference.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
wdunlap said:

Mandrellian, when you start quoting me, how about getting it right.


Hypocrisy. You've been misrepresenting and selectively quoting just about everything you've attempted to discuss, from atheism to evolution to proof of negatives.

I said:

[wdunlap] thinks that because gods can't be absolutely ruled out it's sufficient reason to think they're plausible or even likely


You seem to think I was misrepresenting your position. Irritating when someone does that. Like when someone asserts that the position of atheism (not individual atheists) is some kind of claim that gods don't exist, instead of a response to the claim that they DO exist. You simply reek of hypocrisy.

That obvious truth aside, is that not your position? Have you not said repeatedly that you think a creator or god "might be necessary", implying that you think a creator is either both (a) plausible and (b) likely? Did you not spend many, many paragraphs exposing your ignorance of evolution and inventing ways that it was plausible that a god, creator, whatever could have messed with the life on this planet?

In case you missed it, that's what we've been f'king well arguing about for a week now - the fact that you think gods "could be" there; that the lack of evidence for gods existing is no reason to NOT believe they're there - the implication being that you think they "might be necessary"; the further implication being that you think they're plausible.

If I said "ghosts might be necessary to explain the noise in my attic" and somebody later said "Mandrellian thinks ghosts are a plausible or likely explanation for his attic noises", I'd have no choice but to agree with that person; their assessment would be accurate. If I had said "possums might be necessary to explain the noise", same situation - it would be because I thought possums were plausible/likely.

---

Bottom line: if you don't think gods are plausible or likely, why would you think that they "might be necessary?" Why would you spend days defending the plausibility of gods?

Is your position now that gods are implausible and unlikely?

---
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Wdunlap, you cannot make up your own rules for the scientific process.
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
It just doesn't work that way. At least start by educating yourself as to what you are trying to talk about regarding testing negatives. You really are looking foolish making up your own version of something that is an established concept.

BTW, your skepti wiki page came up blank.

The post above the one with the hyperlink has the correct address. Are you incapable of cutting and pasting an address?
I'll try to make the hyperlink again but here's a hint, if the hyperlink doesn't work, you can get there manually.
http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/"You_Can't_Prove_a_Negative"
http://skepticwiki.org/index.p..._Negative"

There is no sense, w
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
wdunlap part II:

I never said that because a god can't be ruled out that it is sufficient evidence of one. I gave reasons why a creator might be necessary, and that since you have no evidence, you cannot rule out a creator.


And I have never said that "can't rule it out" was equal to "evidence for" in your mind. I'll leave aside your irritating "you can't prove the creator's non-existence" bollocks, except to say: you admit you can't prove it DOES exist, yet you still insist it might be necessary, despite being shown repeatedly how it's not necessary, even with things we don't have answers for. Exhaustingly obtuse.

The statements "can't rule X out despite complete lack of evidence for X" and "X might be necessary to explain Y" implies that you think X is at least superficially plausible; that it could be a reasonable explanation. And if you are, as you yourself described, an agnostic with theistic leanings, it only adds weight to my assessment of your very own words.

If you decide, in the face of a complete lack of evidence, that X "might be necessary", you are implying that you find the concept of X plausible.

---

So: do you think gods are plausible or likely? Yes or no - explain your answer.

---
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Remedial web surfing for the Net challenged
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 10, 2010
For whatever reason, the hyperlink shorthand mucks up the link. All you need to do is put, "You can't prove a negative" into the SkepticWiki search box that is on the hyperlinked page and the correct page will come up as the first option on the search result list. You can then click on that option.


Here's another excellent discussion of the concept that even the science/skeptics in this discussion should take a look. No guarantee the link will work since I cannot test it until I post it and then it is not editable.

http://www.graveyardofthegods.net/articles/cantprovenegative.html
http://www.graveyardofthegods....ative.html
Here is the most salient point from the link:
Thirdly, the statement that “you cannot prove a negative” is simply false. On the surface, it seems to be true: if Person A says “I think God exists” and Person B says “I don’t think God exists,” it’s pretty clear that Person B is going to have a hard time proving that there isn’t a God. However, if you look a little closer, it actually depends on the nature of the negative statement being made. Here are some negative statements that can be proven very easily:

Five is not equal to four
The ancient Egyptians did not watch Seinfeld
The tsetse fly is not native to North America

Clearly, it’s possible to prove a negative statement. The real problem here is clearly the nature of the positive statement being refuted. When a person asserts that God exists, he does not specify the nature of God – that is, is God small, large, blue, red? And where is he? Of course it is not possible to prove that God does not exist, if “God” is a thing that has no definition, no characteristics, and no location. In fact, you can prove just about any kind of negative you can think of – except for (surprise!) the non-existence of mystical beings. When you get right down to it, the statement “you cannot prove a negative” is really just a different way of saying “You can’t prove me wrong because I don’t even know what I’m talking about.”

Logical statements have to abide by certain rules and restrictions. In order for a statement to be logical, it must be falsifiable, which means that it has to be presented in such a way that it could be proven incorrect. A statement is not logical if it cannot be tested to make sure it is true. The existence of God is not a logical question at all, and is therefore nonsensical. Of course you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist – no one even knows what God is supposed to be.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
WD:
I never said that because a god can't be ruled out that it is sufficient evidence of one. I gave reasons why a creator might be necessary, and that since you have no evidence, you cannot rule out a creator. That is a huge difference.


No, but you have said that, despite that lack of evidence, you think a god/creator/whatever might be necessary. You have stated that the appearance of purposeful design in life makes you think it was too complex/well-adapted/etc to have developed undirected and you invoked a hypothetical creator to explain the gaps in your understanding. The reasons you gave for your "maybe necessary" god were dealt with from different angles by different people, yet you're clinging to it anyway.

This implies you think gods/creators are plausible/likely, at least superficially.

It implies you think gods are plausible enough that we shouldn't dismiss them as an explanation - regardless of there being NO evidence to support the claim that they exist.

It also shows that you're dogmatic: you don't care if a claim is supported; you are going to accept it might be true because noone can prove absolutely that it's not true. But we knew that already.

Here's the thing: when there is a claim that is neither supported by evidence or able to be disproved, what use is it to anyone? Why might it be necessary? Why hold on to the vanishingly small probability that it might be necessary? Why argue for a week to support your "might be" and then get snippy when someone relays it back to you?





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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Oops - thought my other comment got nailed and I repeated myself. Apologies everyone!
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Great link Ginger.

My thrust in this discussion was indeed the proof of non-existence of mystical beings; however I might have taken it a bit far with my analogies. I guess I had to try something - I've often found in these discussions that taking things to silly lengths ... might be necessary.

Nonetheless I shall stand by what I said and nobody can prove I'm not.
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written by mandrellian, August 10, 2010
Oh, and I'm still waiting for wdunlap to explain why the only two possibile reasons for the universe existing are "chance" or his might-be-necessary creator/god/Intergalactic Womble. Since no credible scientist actually postulates "chance" as an explanation, I'm wondering where wdunlap found that option.

And since wdunlap doesn't believe his falsely-presented choice of "chance" is plausible, it limits the options for what he thinks is plausible to, well, his creator. Unless he thinks both of his possibilities are implausible & unlikely and only thinks one "might be necessary". Sounds exactly what you'd expect from an "agnostic with theistic leanings" - nothing of much substance.
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written by William, August 11, 2010
Well, SkeptiGirl, it is interesting how your summary "Remedial web surfing for the Net challenged" above summarizes the entire argument of this thread, proving me, wdunlap, and yourself correct in every way.

QED.
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Proving a Negative
written by DataJack, August 11, 2010
Skeptic Ginger -
Great posts, btw!

Regarding these:
Five is not equal to four
The ancient Egyptians did not watch Seinfeld
The tsetse fly is not native to North America

The first is not a negative statement, it is a mathematical assertion. Using, math, you actually can prove that one.

The second two are obviously absurd, but are still not actually provable. A time machine (and a perverse dislike of ancient people), for instance, could disprove the second, and a worldwide conspiracy of biologists could disprove the third. Obviously, both are silly beyond consideration, however, logic doesn't care about silliness or even plausibility, but only about possibility.

"unicorns exist" is a positive claim
Proof: here's a unicorn, touch it. (absurd beyond measure, but still a proof it it were to happen)

"Unicorns don't exist" is a negative claim.
Proof: (can't be proven, but they are very unlikely to exist)

"Ancient Egyptians watched Seinfeld"
Proof: Meet Phatlor and Sarung. They stumbled upon some ancient alien technology back in Alexandria in 1500 BCE. It put them to sleep, and they woke up in 1992. They work at Burger King, and love to watch Seinfeld reruns. (absurd beyond measure, but still a proof it it were to happen)

"Ancient Egyptians did not watch Seinfeld"
Proof: (can't be proven, but this are very unlikely to occur)

It has to do with determination of existence or occurrence.
The second case above can be rewritten like so:
(pos): "Ancient Egyptians that have watched Seinfeld exist"
(neg): "Ancient Egyptians that have watched Seinfeld do not exist"

And the third like this:
(pos): "Primitive ancestors of Tsetse flies existed in NA"
(neg): "Primitive ancestors of Tsetse flies did not exist in NA"

For the first, it doesn't work though:
(pos): "A five that is equal to four exists"
(neg): "A five that is equal to four does not exist"

The (pos) definition in this case is nonsensical, because a five, by definition, cannot be a four. In this case, it is not a negative claim, but a flawed premise.
On the other hand, the second one, although labeled "(neg)", is not a negative claim at all. It is a sound premise, that is accepted on the validity of its constituent components (the accepted definition of four and five). This actually makes it a positive claim, as it is not positing the non-existence or non-occurrence of a thing, it is instead defining an attribute of a thing.

Similarly:
"There are no cats alive today" Neg. claim (can be falsified)
"There are no blue cats" - Neg. claim (can be falsified)
"There are not cats that can juggle" - neg. claim (can be falsified)
"there are no cats that are dogs" - not a neg. claim. Simply a definition. Cannot be falsified, and the opposite of it is nonsensical.
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Remedial science redux
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 11, 2010
mandrellian: Which is, to split a hair I've already split, not quite the same thing as proof that they don't exist.
No, but this is proof you missed the entire point. Perhaps my post on the nuances of science and not proving negatives in context was too obtuse. Let me try a more direct approach.

1) One doesn't 'prove' anything in science. Proof is something you do in math.

2) One uses the scientific process to observe and describe the Universe, not 'prove' the Universe.

3) It is absurd on its face to suggest anyone need 'prove' a fictional being does not exist when there is overwhelming evidence the being in question originated as fiction.

4) There is overwhelming evidence gods are fictional beings.


This is what the evidence supports. It is a waste of time concerning oneself with the problem, one can't prove gods don't exist, just as it would be to concern oneself with proving Harry Potter doesn't exist.

God believers misuse the principle of not proving negatives as if that somehow supports their god belief. And many in the skeptical/scientific community enable that dysfunctional misuse of the principles of scientific inquiry by agreeing we can never prove gods don't exist. The problem is not the inability to prove fictional entities don't really exist. The problem is getting more people in the skeptical/scientific communities to recognize that the whole discussion of proving gods don't exist is irrelevant. Following the evidence is the correct scientific approach.

When someone tells me I cannot prove their god does not exist, my answer is, I don't have to because I have overwhelming evidence gods are fictional beings.
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written by William, August 11, 2010
And when someone tells me to prove that my god does exist, my answer is, I don't have to because I never made the claim that it does.
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Remedial science redux
written by DataJack, August 11, 2010
Skeptic Ginger -
In a word, yes. You have stated it quite succinctly, and I agree with your assessment entirely. Even though one cannot technically "prove a negative", it is only rational to assume a thing doesn't exist until evidence is offered, especially in light of the fact that every other entity in its class (i.e., every other god ever examined) has failed to manifest when tested.

As a matter fact, everything gods were invented for, from fertility to weather, that has been examined has also proven to have a natural cause.

The only gods left are gap-gods, and they are moving into ever smaller and more bizarre gaps, as we shine the light of science and reason onto more and more of the universe.

The hiding-now-but-started-the-universe-and-fined-tuned-it-for-life god and the guided-evolution-because-some-people-can't-understand-how-eyes-developed god are some of the few left.
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written by wdunlap, August 11, 2010
Mandrellian,
you are right, you said reason not evidence. My mistake. I apologize.
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written by wdunlap, August 11, 2010
Response to mandrellian,

OK, I went to Skeptic Wiki on You can't prove a negative only to find that they proved my point that you can. Here it is.

Problems
As stated, the rule "You can't prove a negative" is demonstrably false. For many phenomena, the existence of the phenomenon would have some consequences that are themselves falsifiable. You can easily prove that there is no dragon in your refrigerator. (A dragon, or any dragon-sized creature, would provably not fit into a box the size of your refrigerator. More generally, you could simply look in the refrigerator -- do you see a dragon? Do you see any place large enough that a dragon could hide? Ergo, no dragon!) With some cleverness, you could easily prove that there are no leaking pipes in your house. While far more difficult (and probably impractical), you could even prove that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

One might observe too, that the designation of statements as "negative" is arbitrary. The "negative" claim that "no swans are green" is equivalent to the "positive" claim that "all swans are non-green."

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@ Admin
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 11, 2010
Can't you PLEASE turn off the friggin filter that sends posts for review for the sin of taking too long to compose it? How can that possibly be a useful filter?
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Enabling
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 11, 2010
Well this is probably going to be a duplicate post eventually, but Admin is still sitting on my last reply so here it is again:

DataJack: The hiding-now-but-started-the-universe-and-fined-tuned-it-for-life god and the guided-evolution-because-some-people-can't-understand-how-eyes-developed god are some of the few left.
For the record, we know the genetic pathway by which eyes evolved.

As for "some people can't understand [x]", if you go that route, the list of things "some-people-can't-understand" would include quite a bit more than evolution of the eye.

The idea the Universe needed fine tuning and that is evidence for gods is a very poor argument. It's akin to the evolution deniers claiming probability statistics disprove evolution theory. Evolution theory does explain the diversity of life on Earth, therefore the improbable argument is moot. We are here and the Universe is what it is, therefore the needed-fine-tuning argument is no more than made up silliness.

A hiding god who started the Universe and now just watches, is also an irrelevant god that logically no one should be aware of. So take your pick: irrelevant or a logical contradiction or both.

But none of this is news to you nor to most people who have discarded magical explanations for the Universe. What I would like to see is for those of us who have discarded magical explanations in favor of rational thinking to stop enabling the magical thinkers with such things as, categorizing "faith based beliefs" as somehow different from other non rational evidence based beliefs. It says we can apply a double standard to god beliefs we don't apply to other baseless beliefs. And I'd like to see the skeptical/scientific communities get beyond this, "can't prove gods don't exist therefore science is agnostic". With other fictional characters, I doubt many are truly agnostic. And why are we not emphasizing following the evidence which tells us what gods are, rather than emphasizing the irrelevant issue of not being able to "prove" gods don't exist?

It takes a bit of courage to tell people their god beliefs are folly. And while I'm not arguing we should alienate every theist regardless of the circumstances, I am arguing we need at a minimum to quit enabling magical thinking.
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As Usual...
written by DataJack, August 11, 2010
Skeptic Ginger -
...I agree with you on every count. I am one of the few skeptics I know who considers belief in gods to be equal to belief in non-god woo. I don't cut god belief any slack. That being said, I don't want to alienate many of my skeptic friends. So I don't claim to decide who gets to be a skeptic and who doesn't. I think skeptic is a title one assigns to oneself. I know a few wonderful skeptics who are deists (including the title character of this thread, Pamela Gay). I am sure I know some other wonderful skeptics who maintain some other woo-filled beliefs. In theory, I might even maintain so woo-y beliefs smilies/smiley.gif
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written by wdunlap, August 11, 2010
Well, I have a feeling that God has been there to repell any asteroids headed for earth. But he might get tired being dissed by those ungodly atheists and let one make it through. smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by wdunlap, August 11, 2010
(When you get right down to it, the statement “you cannot prove a negative” is really just a different way of saying “You can’t prove me wrong because I don’t even know what I’m talking about.”)

Sounds a bit like the response I am getting here. Skeptic Ginger still wants me to explain how I came up with two possibilities, when it is really obvious if you stop getting caught up with silliness like unicorns or hogworts. I will try once more. there are two possibilities how everything started: 1. By some sort of natural cause. 2. By some sort of supernatural being.

I cannot see why anyone would suggest other possibilities unless you allow yourself to be distracted by obvious nonsense which so many atheist are so found of doing. When you can't prove them wrong, i.e., that a creator might be necessary, then snow them with BS. Sorry, it may work on other atheists, but it doesn't work on this kid. If you got the proof I'd love to see it, but don't try to make the idea of a creator seem silly when you haven't any evidence one way or the other. That is like the talk show host I heard years ago who would quote a statement and say "Isn't that sweet?", but he never presented a shred of evidence to disprove the statement.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 11, 2010
It's quite interesting, wdunlap, that you think god beliefs, (or your particular god belief anyway), are not silly. From my perspective I find god beliefs to be even sillier than Hogwarts. At least Harry Potter is a fun fantasy to lose oneself in from time to time. God beliefs, OTOH, represent primitive thinking that the human race, despite the fact we are in the information age, has yet to emerge from.
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written by latsot, August 13, 2010
wdunlap:
You are now spouting complete B.S. You must be taking lessons from your immature friend, Latsot who needs to grow up.


Heh, mature.
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written by William, August 13, 2010
I find god beliefs to be even sillier than Hogwarts


And you wonder why I feel that you seem to put down believers?
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written by wdunlap, August 13, 2010
(It's quite interesting, wdunlap, that you think god beliefs, (or your particular god belief anyway), are not silly. )

Let me put it this way. Just being here is hard to believe. You think believing in a creator is silly, but I find it strange that you think that a first cause being simply a chance occurrence is not. They are both hard to believe with happening by chance being even harder to believe.
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Turtles all the way down
written by Skeptic Ginger, August 13, 2010
Wd, your first-cause creator apparently makes you happier than a natural explanation for the Universe. But it is a meaningless explanation unless you have an answer to where the creator came from or evidence beyond your comfortable opinion that a god actually exists.

Like the answer or not, my conclusions about the Universe are based on what the evidence supports. The evidence is clear gods are mythical beings humans invented. You can't quite let go of god and it is blocking your objectivity that ALL gods are myths. But there is no evidence of any other conclusion but that ALL gods are myths.

As the human species collected more and more evidence it became clear that there were natural explanations for the Universe and while those explanations might be fantastic, they were not magical. The reason a natural universe is not silly while a god made us universe is, stems from the evidence that the Universe is indeed a natural thing with no gods involved.

In other words, there is evidence gods are mythical and the Universe is natural. You have no other evidence than that. Your conclusion is based solely on your individual incredulity that a natural universe could exist. And you are not well versed on the science of physics, cosmology, and/or biology. That fits with the same basis for people making up or believing in god myths. If you are not aware there are very logical natural explanations for everything in the corner of the Universe we encounter, inventing magical explanations is par for the course.
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written by latsot, August 14, 2010
williumness:

And you wonder why I feel that you seem to put down believers?


No, not really. We know why you feel like that. We really, really do. We can hardly help but know it since you and unnotable others spend so much time whining about it. But this is exactly the problem, isn't it? When you believers don't have an argument, you start complaining about things like 'tone'. You start claiming persecutuion because a few people aren't offering undue respect to your beliefs solely because they happen to be religious beliefs.

You can either take the not at all novel approach of claiming persecution or you can actually answer the questions people have asked you.

Go ahead and surprise me. Prove me wrong. Stop blubbing about lack of respect and start actually answering questions. Go on, buck the trend. It'll be fun.
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written by latsot, August 14, 2010
Oh, and it's *really* cute the way william and wdunlap keep voting up each other's posts and presumably voting down everyone else's, isn't it?

Keep it up, it's hilarious.
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written by latsot, August 14, 2010
Datajack:
I think skeptic is a title one assigns to oneself.


Well the problem is that it's not. You either have a skeptical attitude or you don't. You either apply that attitude to everything, or you are bewilderingly selective about what you're skeptical about and what you aren't, which is by definition NOT A SKEPTICAL ATTITUDE.

I know, I know, it isn't quite as simple as that. I've argued above that it's not that simple. I'm happy to consider people as skeptical in some areas so long as they admit that they are unskeptical in others (Gay, etc.) However, if they have such a glaring hole in their skepticism, I think I ought to be forgiven for casting extra doubt on everything they say. How am I to know whether they are using their bizarre random selective unskepticism to get out of jail free?

Gay and others can be skeptical about all sorts of stuff and they surely are. However, on reflection it doesn't seem very helpful to call such people skeptics. Skepticism is a way of thinking and behaving. Turning one's skepticism off seems to me to be something a skeptic couldn't possibly do. They could be wrong, they could be biassed, they could be stupid deluded or confused. But they couldn't decide that their skepticism didn't apply to some huge area of reality (or, more likely, unreality).

I'd say that anyone who did such a thing is sometimes skeptical, but isn't a skeptic. It seems a bit like people who don't believe in god but go to weddings in churches saying that they're religious or creationists claiming that they're scientists. It's pointless, pathetic, pouting rhetoric and I wish people would stop it.

Let me say again though that Gay has perfectly good skeptical credentials in a bunch of areas. She is to be trusted, as far as I know, on a range of topics. But we know she deliberately compromises her skepticism when it comes to religion. I think that means she has to work harder at being taken seriously than anyone else who applies their skepticism without caveat.

I don't think I can understand anyone who disagrees. I'm being as kind as I can here. She's great, but she's not a great skeptic. Why are we arguing over a random label anyway?
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written by William, August 14, 2010
First off, I don't vote down. I vote up what I agree with, but I don't vote down that which I don't.

Second, Yes, I'll admit that I vote up my own comments and most of wdunlap's comments. I can't confirm what wdunlap is doing as far as voting up or down. But, assuming he is voting up his own comments and mine, there is still a third up vote being applied to quite a few of our comments.

Third, I had noted earlier that believers are put down. mandrellian replied that no one was putting down believers. I was just offering the proof. Thank you, latsot, for proving mandrellian wrong.

Fourth, I have answered every question put to me. If I missed one, forgive me. Please ask it again so I may have the chance to answer it. I am still watching this thread.
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written by mandrellian, August 19, 2010
William said:

"I find god beliefs to be even sillier than Hogwarts"

And you wonder why I feel that you seem to put down believers?


This is a poor example. Ridiculing a belief is not the same as putting down a believer. Saying "believing in god is silly" is simply not the same as saying "believers in god are silly".

The fact is, some beliefs are in fact stupid. The belief that stars billions of miles away affect you in highly specific, personal ways because of the day, month and year you were born, for example, is really stupid. It's not supported, it's based on prescientific superstition and to base your life on it - or even put any stock in it whatsoever - is a stupid waste of time. Many people still do just that, but to consider them stupid based on a single data point is unfair, uncharitable and not exactly skeptical.

There are plenty of clear examples of personal attacks on believers (not their beliefs); the one you used is no such thing. If you want to convince people you're right you'll need to do better.

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written by mandrellian, August 19, 2010
William said:

I'll admit that I vote up my own comments


Now, that is stupid. A stupid act - because it's pointless and somewhat childish - not an act by a person who I consider stupid (quite the contrary).

Not that anyone puts much stock in the "Vote Up/Down" system, but the fact that you post anything at all implies you agree with yourself. Patting yourself on the back gives a false impression of assent and is just plain narcissistic.

OK, a followup on this one:

mandrellian replied that no one was putting down believers. I was just offering the proof. Thank you, latsot, for proving mandrellian wrong.


Well, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. Clearly I haven't read everything that latsot has. It's always nice when people show their evidence though!



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written by mandrellian, August 19, 2010
Gosh I'm just a serial wrongster, by the looks.

I'll have to be clearer when talking about "proving a negative" in future.

What I was getting at was the unreasonable demand of proof of a thing's non-existence in order to rule it out as a plausible explanation.

Of course you can't prove gods don't exist, but without evidence that they do, the reasonable position is to not believe that they exist. To believe they do exist (or even that they're plausible explanations) without any supporting evidence is unreasonable. People don't believe in gods because there's no evidence for them; they do not have to prove the non-existence of gods for disbelief to be reasonable and they do not have to furnish evidence of non-existence. This has been explained numerous times; it has been ignored or talked around ad nauseam.

Oh, and kudos to wdunlap for visiting the Skeptical Wiki. Long may he visit and absorb, that he might one day be able to understand why nearly everyone in this thread has become utterly fed up with his thinly-veiled, dogmatic adherence to his "necessary" theism.
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written by William, August 20, 2010
Saying that I do something that is silly or stupid is a put down.

And just so you know, I do not accept nor believe in astrology. For that, there is plenty of evidence that it does NOT work. (Counter-proof.)
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written by mandrellian, August 20, 2010
William:
Saying that I do something that is silly or stupid is a put down.


What a silly thing to say. Silly, not because I think you're silly, but because it's completely, demonstrably wrong. There is a difference between attacking an action and attacking the person who performed the action; this much should be obvious.

Calling someone an idiot would be a put-down; a personal attack. Calling an action or statement or belief or idea of theirs idiotic is not. That is attacking the idea, not the person holding it. People hold idiotic beliefs and do idiotic things all the time; it does not hold that such people are idiots; anyone who makes that link is being dishonest & unfair. But people who take offense at having their ideas & actions attacked perhaps shouldn't take them out in public!

I can't speak for anyone else, but I am more than capable of holding an opinion or making a judgement about someone's beliefs or actions that is independent of my opinion or judgement of them as a person. Performing an act like voting up your own commentary, for example, makes me think you've done one stupid, narcissistic thing - it does not make me think you are a stupid narcissist. It simply isn't fair to judge a person by the few things you've seen them say and do. It is fair, however, to judge what they say and do. Not only is it fair, it's really your only option online, when words and actions are all there is.

We do each other no favours by pussy-footing around when it comes to criticising or even ridiculing ideas. People should be able to vigorously promote and defend their ideas without taking personal offense if people don't agree or even if their ideas are attacked. If you can't separate an attack on what you say from an attack on who you are, perhaps you should reconsider getting involved in debates. This is the internet - I don't know who you are or what you're like; all I have to go on are your words and actions, so that's what I evaluate & criticise. Again, if you choose to take offense at that, maybe you're in the wrong arena.
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written by mandrellian, August 20, 2010
WD:
I will try once more. there are two possibilities how everything started: 1. By some sort of natural cause. 2. By some sort of supernatural being.

I cannot see why anyone would suggest other possibilities unless you allow yourself to be distracted by obvious nonsense which so many atheists are so fond of doing.


You've tried nothing; all you've done is put forward the same unsupported idea you did dozens of posts ago, after basically ignoring every single response made to it.

All anyone has asked are these very simple questions:

1. Why are there ONLY TWO possibilites?

2. Why must those possibilities be the ones you've chosen?

That you "cannot see why anyone would suggest other possibilities" is not a valid reason. Your personal incredulity, lack of imagination, ignorance, whatever is not a valid reason to keep the options to "god" or "not god".

What's wrong with other possibilites, e.g. the universe was always here and needs no explanation, the universe is a gigantic spaceship or an science experiment for hyper-advanced aliens, it's all a dream, it's the turtles again? There's as much evidence for aliens, never-ending universes and dreams as there is for a god.

The trouble is, you haven't even presented two equally valid possibilities - you've presented one which has lots of supporting evidence (a natural cause) and one with no evidence whatsoever (some supernatural "being" that you haven't even bothered to define but which is probably a shadow of Yahweh, kept in your mind by pure habit). This is why people are using the term 'false dichotomy': you're placing two options against each other as if they were the ONLY options. Worse than that, you won't even explain WHY those two are the only two.

The further trouble is, when you start invoking possibilities which have no evidence to support them, you open the door to any number of other possibilities that also have no evidence. There's a reason 'so many atheists' present obvious nonsense like unicorns and bloody Hogwarts when people bring up supernatural creators - they're trying to point out that there is as much reason to believe in unicorns and other acknowledged mythical creatures as there is to think your god-thing created the universe: NONE. Yet you're still attempting to present "a supernatural creator for which there is no evidence" as a valid possibility in the creation of the universe. The evidence indicates no such thing yet you hang on to the idea as dogmatically as Ken Ham does to Genesis. Something tells me your "theistic leanings" are more than simple leanings. Perhaps you need to contemplate exactly what it is you believe about these matters & settle on a point of view you can actually define before putting forward & defending half-baked, noncommittal, vague ideas about some god-being.

Wdunlap, the reason we keep going around in circles - the reason you seem to be getting frustrated - is because you stubbornly refuse to accept the logical, reasonable answers being put to you. No, for the last time, I can't disprove your god-being. All I can do is point to there being NO evidence for it and therefore NO reason to believe in it; by default the natural explanations are all we have left! If you still refuse to accept that and still insist on wishing thinkfully for a celestial finger-snapper, fine. Conversation over.
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written by wdunlap, August 22, 2010
Response to Mandrellian: Part 1 of 2

(after basically ignoring every single response made to it.)

so say you, but I disagree. I've addressed all your points a dozen times. But you are hung up on skepticism with a lack of imagination. I had around 2 or 3 occurrences where a stranger would be describing himself and it would sound exactly like me. I would ask that person their birthday and it would turn out to be 3 days after mine. I once dated a girl whose birthday was 3 days after mine. She turned out to be so much like me that more often than not, I would start to say something and she would be trying to say the very same thing. OK, Ms Skeptic I know you are going to simply close your mind and say it was pure coincidence, but it is something that should be considered before you simply write it off as coincidence. Ok, one more. There was a period of time when some simple thing would pop into my head and it would then happen afterwards. Randi test people, but, unfortunately, if a person does have the ability to look into the future, they may not be able to turn it on at will. I know I couldn't. It just simply happened. I can hear you smirking, but this phenomenon does to appear to occur. I had it happen to me. Simple stuff like looking at the watch bill at work and knowing we are about to have a fire drill, and no sooner did that thought occur to me when the alarm bell went off for a fire drill. I had a woman come out for a bike club ride who told me that she had a biking accident sometime ago where she fell and broke her collar bone. She was also a syncronized swimmer and had just gotten back to it after her collar bone healed. Then she came out with "I wish I had remembered to wear my helmet". The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I just knew she wasn't going to make it through this bike ride without a bad accident. Half way through the ride she came barreling down a hill, hit some gravel fell off her bike and was knocked unconscious and broke her collar bone again. I was telling someone else about this feeling I got, and he told me she had told him the same thing and that he got the same feeling of dread. Another. I'm walking home from getting off the bus from college. I am in deep thought. I know that in the past occassionally some one would ask what school you went to since there was competition between Catholic school and public school. I chuckled to my self because I could answer neither one since I had just started college. I no sooner got out that thought when someone asked me what school I go to. I guess if you are a skeptic and have no imagination, you would completely write off the possible answer that I had some slight psychic abilities and not just that all these things were simply coincidences. These and maybe one more are all the experiences I had. I had none where I had a thought of something about to happen and it did not. I can't be tested because I haven't had any more experiences like this. It only happened for a short period.
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written by wdunlap, August 22, 2010
Response to Mandrellian part 2 of 2

( the reason we keep going around in circles - the reason you seem to be getting frustrated - is because you stubbornly refuse to accept the logical, reasonable answers being put to you.
(What's wrong with other possibilites, e.g. the universe was always here and needs no explanation, the universe is a gigantic spaceship or an science experiment for hyper-advanced aliens, it's all a dream, it's the turtles again? There's as much evidence for aliens, never-ending universes and dreams as there is for a god. )

I'll tell you what is wrong with the universe always being here. Your scientific evidence which you are so fond of hanging your hat on has shown evidence that the universe is expanding from a compact mass of something like a mile cube. Don't hold me to the number, but it is very small. Sorry, but the rest of your suggestions is simply a regurgatation of your usual silliness so I wont get into that again.

(you've presented one which has lots of supporting evidence (a natural cause) and one with no evidence whatsoever (some supernatural "being")

Once again, I repeat, there is no evidence that the universe was started by a creator, but you are wrong when you state that there is all sorts evidence for a first cause when there is no evidence for that at all. In order for you to ignore the fact that a creator might be necessary and may be more likely than everything coming about by chance, you have to shut your brain off. That, unfortunately happens when you are a skeptic with a closed mind. You get caught up into thinking your answer could only be the correct one.

(There's a reason 'so many atheists' present obvious nonsense )

Yes, but it isn't what you think it is. The real truth is that many atheists get caught up into thinking that science has all the answers even though science is not capable of determining whether or not the supernatural exists. They cannot show evidence one way or the other. So all that they have left is to try to make the creation argument look ridiculous by throwing silly nonsense about "bloody hogwarts.

You even went so far as to accuse Williams of belief in astrology. I also get amused at Randi's demonstration of the absurdity of Horoscopes. I agree with him, but how do you explain experiences I have had in the past? I have had experiences where a stranger is describing themselves and they sound like me to a T. I then ask their birthday and it is like 3 days after mine. I have had this happen several times without a miss over a period of time.

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written by mandrellian, August 22, 2010
Wdunlap said
You even went so far as to accuse Williams of belief in astrology.


Oh, fuck me, that is an out-and-out lie. I did no such things. What I did by raising the example of astrology was to illustrate that you can attack an idea & call it stupid, silly, whatever without that attack being personal. Are you really that thick? I hope not; if so I fear for your children.

You've misrepresented me and my intent - on purpose, it would seem, unless you have some kind of severe comprehension problem. DO try a little harder to understand what people are saying to you (and to each other) before accusing them of things. Again, I raised astrology as an EXAMPLE of how you can attack a belief without attacking a PERSON. Every time examples or hypotheticals have been raised here, you've completely misunderstood them or you've taken them literally. That's what creationists and fundamentalists do.

Earlier you said
I've addressed all your points a dozen times. But you are hung up on skepticism with a lack of imagination.
You've addressed nothing. You've mouthed a bunch of vague bullshit. You've avoided the questions. You've repeatedly NOT UNDERSTOOD the concepts of evidence. You've hung on to some vague possibility of some vague god-thing despite endless attempts to show there's no point in considering it. At every turn you've shown dogmatic, wishful thinking and a complete unwillingness to look logic in the face and accept it, because you'd rather believe some remnant of the god you grew up with might still be there. Then you've had the nerve to accuse me being "hung up on skepticism"! Are you kidding me?

The rest of your little mystical story I couldn't give a shit about. Something interesting happened to you. Great. Has noone told you personal revelation is worthless? Has noone told you that anecdotes don't equal evidence? Has noone told you about hearsay? Has noone told you "it's true FOR ME" is ridiculous?

Yes, but it isn't what you think it is. The real truth is that many atheists get caught up into thinking that science has all the answers even though science is not capable of determining whether or not the supernatural exists. They cannot show evidence one way or the other. So all that they have left is to try to make the creation argument look ridiculous by throwing silly nonsense about "bloody hogwarts.


Dead wrong. Again!! Atheists and skeptics are the FIRST people to say "we don't know everything, we don't have all the answers and we probably won't, ever". Ironically, it's religious people and other people ignorant of science and skepticism that have this idea that "scientists think they know EVERYTHING". Scientistis certainly do not think they know everything. Science is about finding answers; if we had all the answers (or thought we did) we'd stop looking and science would no longer exist. Again, a simply concept you've failed to understand over the course of this thread.

Your ignorance of common concepts and the realities of the world should be an embarrassment to you.




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Bugger this for a game of horseshoes
written by mandrellian, August 22, 2010
I'll tell you what is wrong with the universe always being here. Your scientific evidence which you are so fond of hanging your hat on has shown evidence that the universe is expanding from a compact mass of something like a mile cube. Don't hold me to the number, but it is very small. Sorry, but the rest of your suggestions is simply a regurgatation of your usual silliness so I wont get into that again.


Man, that was funny: "MY usual silliness". This from a guy who can't even tell the difference between an example and an accusation! From someone who can't tell the difference between "possible" and "likely". From someone who thinks "you can't provide evidence against it" means "you should believe it".

For the last fucking time, the use of Hogwarts and the "other nonsense" has been explained to you. Repeatedly. Once you open the door to ONE possibility without evidence, i.e. your maybe-god, you open the door to as many other evidence-less possibilities as can be invented. My nonsense (ever-lasting universe included) was INTENDED to be nonsense - it was to be seen as EXAMPLES of other possibilities for which there is no evidence, NOT what I actually thought could be. I was saying "if you choose to believe X without evidence, why not Y?" But again, you chose to miss the point. By several miles. Most people under 12 would be able to grasp that I was using examples, and NOT putting those ideas out there as my own beliefs. You clearly can not, so I'll waste no more time responding to you.

If you can't be bothered spending any time comprehending anything that's been said to you, with great patience and restraint, I might add, then there's absolutely no point being civil anymore. So, to avoid simply insulting you (as you have insulted the intelligence of every skeptic in this thread, repeatedly), you can have the thread to yourself. I've wasted enough time being fucked with by you and your ridiculous (and now dishonest!) behaviour.

If you actually wanted to learn something by coming here with your ideas (as opposed to embarking on an epic trolling campaign), take the lesson that people tend to get really pissed off if you do the following: repeatedly ignore their reasoning, repeatedly view examples and hypotheticals as their actual beliefs, try that ridiculous old hypocritical religionist tactic of accusing skeptics and atheists of having "closed minds" or that they "think science has ALL the answers", ignore whatever you don't understand or whatever would invalidate your reasoning (if you actually understood it!) and, especially, if you misrepresent peoples' words and lie about their intent. Disagreements, ignorance, even flat-out stupidity are things I can tolerate in these arguments (for a time, anyway). Dishonesty is not.
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written by wdunlap, August 23, 2010
Response to Mandrellian:

I find it amusing that you are going to leave the whole board to me, but without me the board was pretty much dead, so you gave in and decided to rehash the same old same old even though I had suggested to leave it there on a friendly note because we were simply beating a dead horse. I decided to try once more, silly me, to see if I could get my point across that a creator was possible and that you nor any scientist, though you think they do, have no evidence one way or another that a creator could be possible and that they have no evidence of a natural cause. Though you speak out of one side of your mouth that a creator could be possible since you don't know, you persist in throwing in other possible variables that add nothing to my speculation of a possible need for a creator. Who the fuck cares if you are into Hogwarts. There are only two possible causes of the expansion of the universe from a compact unit of mass. Either it came about by some unknown natural occurrence or by a supernatural occurrence. And whether or not you want to face it, science as of yet has no evidence to show it was due to natural causes. And your throwing in in Hogwarts and unicorns is nothing more than a distraction.

BTW, I love how you just blew off my strange possible psychic experiences as hearsay. It did happen and it would serve no purpose for me to make it up. But I'm obviously dealing with someone who has no imagination. How sad!!

I'm done. I should have realized that I would be wasting my time.
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written by William, September 03, 2010
Here's our argument: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-0...s=PM:WORLD

You HAVE to read to the end.

No further comment necessary, I already know what you are going to say. You have already said it.
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written by latsot, September 11, 2010
Mandrellian (bit late, sorry):

> mandrellian replied that no one was putting down believers. I was just offering the proof.
> Thank you, latsot, for proving mandrellian wrong.

I don't think I claimed to prove you wrong. I'm vaguely sorry for being hijacked by gibbering idiots. On which topic:

I disagree with you that people who consistently say idiotic things might not be idiots. It seems very unlikely that non idiots would continue to spout idiotic things. I'm a reasonably imaginative chap but I admit I'm finding it somewhat difficult to reconcile this whole idiocy-spouting vibe with people not actually in point of fact idiots.

You're far too kind, Mandrellian, even when you wring these mindless idiots out and leave them to dry.

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written by mandrellian, September 13, 2010
Since wdnulap is unable to comprehend either the concept of a false dichotomy or the tactic of me using Hogwarts & unicorns as an example to illustrate a point about unproven supernatural explanations that has been explained to him over and over and fucking over again by myself and many other people, I shall bequeath to him the entire board with my best wishes and this final statement:


wdunlap, you are so fucking thick it defies my imagination how you're able to get up and dress yourself in the morning without being strangled by your own underpants - if indeed you are permitted to wear clothes by whomever it is that supervises you.


Hey latsot - was that too kind?
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written by latsot, September 14, 2010
Spot on, mandrellian.
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written by wdunlap, September 21, 2010
My oh my you blokes are still here commiserating over my leaving this blog. Meanwhile, I was hiking in the Dolomites of Italy, i.e., unlike you guys, I have a life. Sorry, but there is no point in my staying because I would only waste my time since you both, Mandrellian & latsot, obviously have closed minds and wear blinders on your thinking process. How very sad. But, if it makes you feel better to delude yourself into thinking your answer is the only correct one, then, by all means, knock yourself out. This is my final post.
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Bravo!
written by Mr. Excitement!, September 29, 2010
Great job to madrellian, latsot, DataJack, Skeptigirl and Skeptic Ginger. This thread was a fascinating read. You presented your arguments exceptionally well and I read this whole thread with great interest and learned much about intelligent arguing. It certainly reminds one that you should never feed trolls. Looking at wdunlap's last post (which certainly won't be his last), it shows you the maturity level and thickness of cranium you were fighting to get facts through. Very nice try though - there should be logic meadls of bravery to you all.
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written by mandrellian, December 19, 2010
"My oh my you blokes are still here commiserating over my leaving this blog"

...says the clown who returned to the thread quite a long time after "leaving" it - clearly to see if anyone was still talking about him. What an egotistical little fuckpot you are.

For the record: you're still wrong, still completely ignorant of what a false dichotomy is and still too much of a fucking idiot to see WHY you're wrong and ignorant - perhaps you should stick to your favourites hobbies: hiking and telling people where you've hiked.

Merry motherfucking Christmas, everyone!

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